Archive for February 3rd, 2010

Kerry proposes free-speech amendment

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, says there needs to be a constitutional amendment indicating that corporations don’t have the same free speech rights as individuals, reports Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), seconded the motion and said he planned to introduce legislation calling for a complete overhaul of the campaign finance system.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the prohibition on corporate use of treasury funds for political speech — specifically for broadcast and cable spots in federal elections — taking a big bite out of campaign finance reform law, B&C writes. “No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations,” said the court in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined in part by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Adoption of a Constitutional amendment is a long process and, in fact, Kerry said it would take some time even to craft the amendment.

Once a bill is written, to actually become part of the Constitution it must pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority in each. Then it goes to the states, where it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. Or, according to U.S. Constitution Online, two-thirds of the states could call for a Constitutional Convention, which would return any amendments it proposed to the states for ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Meanwhile, Kerry and others suggested the committee should pass various bills that have been introduced to tighten up disclosure and disclaimer rules and give shareholders more say in corporate campaign speech.

Paid-content system on its way

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer could be among the first newspapers to adopt a pay wall system called Press+ developed by entrepreneurs Steven Brill, L. Gordon Crovitz and their partners, according to The New York Times.

The Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era of Lancaster, Pa., is “one of the first handful of news outlets to acknowledge in interviews that it intends, in the next few months, to start using the software system,” the NYT report says. The article mentions the Fayetteville paper and GlobalPost, a news site based in Boston, as “others interested.”

Initially the Pennsylvania paper “will charge only readers outside its immediate area and only for reading obituaries, with a little green Press+ logo next to each headline covered by the system,” the NYT says. “It will allow a reader to see a certain number of obituaries free before a box pops onto the screen demanding a flat fee to keep reading, but the paper has not yet decided what that number will be, or how much it will charge.”

“The first publishers planning to launch on the platform are currently integrating our software, in anticipation of offering paid access later this winter when our consumer-facing logo, Press+, will be presented to the public,” Brill and Crovitz say in a memo at

“The timing for these initiatives could not be better,” Brill and Crovitz continue. “Our industry is adapting, and it’s now clear that many sites, large and small, will be soon be charging their most engaged online readers for access. Studies show that readers will pay for distinctive brands and content. … In short, the question is no longer “if,” but “when” and “how.””

The Times points out that, “there are plenty of skeptics who say that charging (for online content) could be a short-lived experiment.”