All is not what it seems at the Media Institute

By Laurie Bennett

March 19, 2012 at 8:26am

The Media Institute describes itself as a nonprofit research foundation with a mission:

“The Institute exists to foster three goals: freedom of speech, a competitive media and communications industry, and excellence in journalism.”

One would think, with this set of objectives, that the institute is a journalism organization, and that its annual awards would go to those who uncover public corruption and conflicts of interest.

In reality, the institute is a group of lobbyists, primarily from the telecommunications and broadcast sector, working against government regulation.

In October, the organization awarded its “Freedom of Speech Award” to Federal Communications Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, a Republican who has advocated easing of regulations such as the limits on cross-ownership of newspapers and TV or radio stations.

Meredith A. Baker
Meredith A. Baker

In December, the institute announced that it had named Meredith Attwell Baker to its board of trustees.

Baker, daughter-in-law of GOP heavyweight James Baker III, took a job last year as a senior vice president of NBCUniversal. The move came just four months after she voted as an FCC commissioner to approve NBCUniversal’s merger with Comcast.

She also registered last year as a lobbyist for Comcast. Ten of the 17 institute trustees are registered lobbyists. Two others, including board chairman Richard E. Wiley, are former lobbyists.

Wiley is a partner at the D.C. law firm Wiley Rein, which lobbies for such media clients as Gannett, CBS, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Newspaper Association of America and CTIA, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association.

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