FCC Diversity Chief Asked Liberals to Copy FDR, Take on Limbaugh, Murdoch, Supreme Court
August 26, 2009 - 7:01 PMFederal Communications Commission Chief Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd called on fellow liberals to follow the model of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and challenge conservative media moguls and station owners, particularly figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch, and "a pro-big business Supreme Court aligned" with them.
Lloyd made the call in a 2007 article for the liberal Center for American Progress while he was a senior fellow there.
Entitled “Media Maneuvers: Why the Rush to Waive Cross-Ownership Bans,” the article ostensibly talks about the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to allow Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell to purchase the then-failing Chicago Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
Lloyd, however, uses the Zell case, in which Zell ultimately prevailed, to make a broader argument that liberals should look to the tactics employed by FDR to combat his conservative critics in the media, saying that liberals must challenge outspoken conservatives who own media outlets.
“Progressives should take a page from FDR’s media diversity playbook,” Lloyd wrote. “[A]t the end of a second FDR administration [in 1940] when the New Dealers were still battling a conservative print media and a conservative Supreme Court to fix the great debacle of American capitalism – the Great Depression.
“FDR’s fireside chats and his ready access to radio allowed him to speak directly to Americans and continue to push a progressive agenda,” said Lloyd. “But FDR was becoming increasingly concerned about the purchase of radio operations by the newspaper publishers.”
Lloyd highlights one Roosevelt tactic in particular, using the Justice Department to take his conservative media critics to court on anti-trust grounds. He highlights the case of then Chicago Tribune publisher Col. Robert R. McCormick, a stalwart Roosevelt critic.
Says Lloyd: “One of the most vehement Roosevelt-haters was Col. Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. McCormick considered it his duty to remove Roosevelt from office and he used every means at his disposal to further this aim, including his radio station WGN (AM).
“But there is little doubt that FDR understood what he was up against,” wrote Lloyd. “He understood not only how to use media effectively, but also the importance of media ownership and the rules that determined media ownership.”
Roosevelt took the Associated Press and McCormick, an AP member, to court, alleging that they were engaged in illegal, monopolistic practices. Ultimately, a then Roosevelt-friendly Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment did not give newspapers the right to be monopolies.
Lloyd referenced the case to call on liberals to act like Roosevelt and challenge what he saw as conservative dominance in media.
“Just as FDR and the New Deal Progressives understood that media consolidation posed a major problem in a democracy, modern progressives need to understand the importance of this battle,” said Lloyd.
He warned that Zell, who tended to support conservative politicians, could be a modern-day McCormick, ready to ally with other conservative media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch and Rush Limbaugh against liberals.
“[T]he vast majority of Zell’s political contributions go to support conservative candidates and causes,” wrote Lloyd. “Is Zell a modern Col. McCormick waiting in the wings to join forces with Rupert Murdoch and Rush Limbaugh?”
Lloyd said such conservatives were “frantic” to get favorable ownership regulations in place before liberals could re-take Congress and the White House in 2008.
“Conservatives, including conservatives in media, are frantic to get a wide range of regulations that favor the interests of big business in place as soon as possible,” wrote Lloyd. “They are justifiably concerned that a public fed up with seven years of failed conservative policies in Iraq, a souring economy, and rising health care costs will put a stronger progressive voice in Congress and in the White House.”
Lloyd warned that conservatives such as Limbaugh and Murdoch were in league with a “pro-big business” Supreme Court and ready to battle the incoming liberal majority, just like in FDR’s day.
“A pro-big business Supreme Court aligned with Murdoch, Limbaugh, and Zell and ready to battle a progressive in the White House begins to sound a lot like the early years of the FDR administration,” said Lloyd. “Will progressives sound like FDR and commit to creating a media policy that actually serves democracy and promotes diverse and antagonistic sources of news?”