- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

Freedom of information in China

Google’s corporate motto “Don’t be evil” has invited many to suggest even the most principled American companies can be bought off in the wake of its decision to leave out search results the Chinese Communist Party finds objectionable (“Google in China, Editorial, Wednesday). The CCP’s preoccupation (with some 30,000 government censors patrolling the Chinese Internet, some might say obsession) with controlling information is hardly a new phenomenon; government concerns about the right information falling into the wrong people’s hands reflects the age-old Chinese belief that “freedom” equals “chaos.”

Obviously, old habits die hard, and Beijing finds itself fighting to maintain strict control of information in a world of instant communication. Perhaps Beijing, therefore, would do well to accept the inevitable and follow the motto of another famously iconoclastic American corporation: “Think different.”

PING-CHANG TSAI

Silver Spring

The New York Times responds

The Op-Ed “A False Picture of Aristide” (Monday) by Lorne W. Craner, president of the International Republican Institute, is based on significant misrepresentations of a recent New York Times story about Haiti. We take particular issue with three of them.

The Op-Ed said that Colin Powell had denied what Mr. Craner called “the underpinning” of our article: that there was a difference between the official United States policy of supporting Mr. Aristide and “rogue administration officials” who had opposed the Haitian president. Further, Mr. Craner says we omitted that denial.

In fact, Mr. Powell never said that. As we reported, he said that the American policy did not change until Mr. Aristide’s final days. And he disputed the on-the-record assertions of former assistant secretary of state Otto Reich that the United States ambassador had not been allowed to stay on because he had failed to grasp “a change in policy” away from Mr. Aristide.

The Times story also reported that the ambassador to Haiti, Brian Dean Curran, had raised questions about the work of the International Republican Institute and its representative in Haiti, Stanley Lucas, an avowed Aristide opponent.

Mr. Craner said that Mr. Curran’s charges were backed by “three Haitians, all of whom are onetime Aristide allies and have obvious motivations to criticize IRI.”

What Mr. Craner neglects to mention is that two of those Haitians had become leaders of the anti-Aristide movement. In addition, Mr. Curran’s allegations were supported by, among others, Luigi Einaudi, the OAS official who led a four-year effort to negotiate a political settlement, a man whom Mr. Craner has praised.

Mr. Craner wrote that our story had strung together “disparate rumors” that had appeared elsewhere.

In fact, our story was based on government records and dozens of interviews with key players speaking out on the record, and for the first time, about the events leading to the ouster of Mr. Aristide. Among those interviewed and quoted extensively in the article were officials of the International Republican Institute.

Mr. Craner complains that The New York Times declined to publish as written his letter to the editor. The reason was its reliance on these and other misrepresentations of our story.

BILL KELLER

Executive Editor

New York Times

New York

Cable controversy

I read with interest the item “A la carte bargain” (Tuning in to TV, Thursday) covering the Federal Communications Commission’s plan for a la carte cable pricing.

Pay-per-channel, or “a la carte,” rules won’t help sift out programming our families may find unsuitable. On the contrary, it could represent the death knell for much of the wholesome programming available today from smaller independent channels like the Inspiration Networks.

Values-based broadcasting is undergoing a renaissance. While some once argued that such programming could never prosper, there is a thriving and growing market for the kind of Biblically-based programming we provide. But that’s because we’re able to place such programming on the widely distributed channel packages offered by cable systems. Millions of new viewers, who would be otherwise unaware of our existence, are exposed to positive and life changing messages.

Our location in the basic cable package also means advertisers are more inclined to support our networks. And our ministry programmers can speak to new supporters and encourage them to participate in their activities, conferences and causes. That support is critical to the growth and success of our network and the more than 80 ministry programmers that use our platform.

Those pushing for a disastrous “a la carte” mandate must think about who it is they would hurt the most — viewers seeking quality family programming, and the networks that provide it.

ROD TAPP

Executive Vice President

Sales and Marketing

Inspiration Networks

Charlotte, N.C.

Imagine a world where the government would decree that you must buy your news stories from individual reporters rather than from newspapers. Hard to contemplate such an Orwellian norm in modern day commerce? Perhaps not.

If the Federal Communications Commission chairman and some special interests get their way, a similar heavy-handed government rule — known as a-la-carte regulations — would apply to the cable-television industry. That rule would require consumers to pay a per-channel charge for every cable television channel they watch.

And, if that happens, scores of new Hispanic, African American, women and other programs would be the first casualties.

Cable’s basic platform — known as the “expanded basic tier” — is the very lifeblood for many of the new, niche cable programs and the bulwark against price hikes for consumers. Once a new channel makes it on the basic platform, it gets two essential benefits.

First, it sits on a platform viewed by millions of viewers who might otherwise never see or be aware of the new network but who will inevitably come upon it while channel surfing. Without this common platform, the new network would have to spend tens of millions of dollars in a marketing campaign to try to reach that new potential audience.

Similarly, because the new network has a larger real and potential audience, advertisers are willing to pay a higher premium. Given that new networks can cost more than $100 million to get off the ground, these twin-barreled benefits — a bigger audience, and premium ad revenues — make a life-and-death difference to networks struggling to get their sea-legs. And this, in turn, keeps costs to the consumer lower.

Independent study after independent study, and an enormous bipartisan group of religious broadcasters and civil rights organizations, have all said that per-channel charges will result in price increases and less diversity in programming.

Parents already have the controls they need — with a click of the remote — to ensure that what they view as inappropriate content is blocked. A new pay-per channel government regulation will kill small programmers while dousing consumers with rate increases. That is hardly the kind of holiday gift the FCC should be giving consumers.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington

Crustacean conflagration

PETA’s not being honest about its objection to the lobster-tank arcade game (“Crustacean temptation,” Nation, Feb. 7). This is a group that’s in favor of “liberating” animals, not making them comfortable before we eat them.

Even if these restaurants gave each lobster a barca-lounger, an iPod, three square meals a day and a view of the ocean, PETA would still argue that they have the “right” to not be cooked and dipped in drawn butter.

Regardless of what the animal-rights movement thinks, most people would gladly pay two dollars for a chance at a lobster dinner. Of course, I’d fork over a twenty if PETA would just be quiet.

DAVID MARTOSKO

Director of Research

Center for Consumer Freedom

Washington

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