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Left aiming to 'rein in' media diversity, restrict 'reach' of Fox News

In the name of curbing "extremism," "radicalization," political, media figures mull economic pressure tactics to marginalize targeted outlets, protect viewers from "harm," "lies and hatred."

February 3, 2021 11:35am

Updated: February 5, 2021 9:40am

Multiple highly visible public figures — including major media commentators and progressive left icon Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — are signaling what appears to be an impending campaign to regulate and potentially homogenize the national media landscape. 

Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York's 14th Congressional District, suggested in January that multiple House members, herself included, were considering plans to regulate the media in some as-yet undefined fashion following the end of the Trump administration. 

Asked during an Instagram question-and-answer session last month about the potential for "media literacy" initiatives in Congress, she responded: "I don't think that the response ... has fully crystallized yet. But what I can say is that there is absolutely a commission being discussed."

She referred to the initial proposals discussed thus far as "investigatory" in nature. 

"I do think that several members of Congress and some of my discussions have brought up media literacy because that is a part of what happened here," she said.

"And we're going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so that you can't just spew disinformation and misinformation," she continued. "It's one thing to have differing opinions, but it's another thing entirely to just say things that are false."

"So that's something that we're looking into," she added.

The congresswoman's office, as well as those of other leading Democrats, did not respond to queries asking about the media "commission" alluded to by Ocasio-Cortez. 

Outside of Capitol Hill, several media figures and outlets have also signaled what may be a coalescing push for de facto intra-media censorship following the conclusion of the Trump administration.

On CNN last week, "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter suggested that networks like Fox and Newsmax should be subject to a "harm reduction" model in which their media reach would be greatly diminished. 

Arguing that those networks are part of what Stelter characterized as a "radicalization pipeline," the CNN host suggested that, as one possible fix, Fox News could be moved "next to sci-fi on your channel lineup, not MSNBC."

"This is not ultimately about freedom of speech," Stelter said. "It's about freedom of reach." 

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, meanwhile, put forth a similar argument in January, suggesting that, in an effort to combat "extremism," advertisers "should stop supporting networks that spread lies and hatred, and cable companies should drop channels that persist in doing so."

"As a start, don't force people to subsidize Fox News by including it in basic packages," he argued.

And at the Washington Post this week, media columnist and former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan called for an advertising boycott of Fox News, citing what she claimed was the network's dangerous coverage of the 2020 election. 

"Corporations that advertise on Fox News should walk away," she wrote, "and citizens who care about the truth should demand that they do so (in addition to trying to steer their friends and relatives away from the network)."

"[I]f reality-based America wants to communicate clearly with Fox News leadership, they'll have to do it in a language they understand," Sullivan argued. "The language of money. Later on Twitter, she linked to a list of Fox's "biggest advertisers" via Media Matters.

The Washington Post subsequently argued that Sullivan "did not call for a boycott in this column or in her tweets. As a columnist, though, she would be free to make that argument if she chose."

Asked for more information about her proposal including whether or not she believed her column constituted calls for a boycott, Sullivan told Just the News via email: "The column speaks for itself."

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