Media Institute President Patrick Maines sees a critical mass of threats to the First Amendment and is advising media companies that they are not doing nearly enough to repel them.
The institute is essentially the First Amendment policy advisor to a group of major media companies including Time Warner, Gannett, Tribune, News Corp., The Washington Post, Viacom, NBC Universal, and Belo. Maines' advice to all media companies is that they need to step into the breach before it gets any worse.
In a stinging analysis posted on the institute's Website, Maines says that freedom of speech "is in tatters," and it will take more than "sunshine weeks" and First Amendment coloring books to mend it.
But he says at least those organizations are trying. "Most are doing nothing," he says. "either because (1) they don't have any real understanding of the issue; (2) they trust that, in the end, they'll be saved by the courts; or (3) they don't really care so long as whatever speech controls are enacted are applied to everyone."
Maines said it is one thing for media companies not to protect their own rights, but they are also the guardians of those rights for everyone. "I see hardly anyone defending free speech," he says, "and that ought to be very scary to lots of people."