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3/7/2006 12:46:03 AM

Updated 02/24/06

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Media Downplay 25 Percent Tax Promoted By Democrats
Journalists fail to link think tank study with senators connected to group that researched it.

By Dan Gainor
July 28, 2005

     XXX marked the spot where the media failed to portray accurately a major new Internet tax initiative. Under a plan promoted by several Democratic senators, Internet pornography would be taxed 25 percent, but that wasnt the focus of the news reports.

     In the five stories since the July 27 announcement, journalists downplayed the major new tax initiative and promoted the real answer about teens using Internet porn based on a study done by a Democratic group. Those included stories on two different broadcast networks, as well as two Associated Press reports.

  • The study, performed by the Democratic think tank Third Way, set in motion the new tax bill put forth by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.). What the media failed to explain was that Lincoln was one of six Democrats listed as honorary Senate chairs of Third Way. The Associated Presss July 27 story listed seven Democrats behind the bill, but never mentioned that four of them are listed on the Third Way Web site as Our Honorary Senate Chairs or Our Honorary Vice Chairs.
  • The July 27 NBC Today didnt even bother to explain that Third Way is Democratic. Instead, co-host Matt Lauer called it a new progressive strategy center, duplicating the language used by the group on its Web site: a strategy center for progressives. That evening, NBC Nightly News reporter Chip Reid helped set the record straight, calling Third Way a new Democratic think tank in Washington.
  • The Associated Press admitted Third Way was run by a group of Democrats seeking a moral authority some say their party has lost in a July 27 article by David Hammer. But a follow-up AP story on July 28 simply called them a group of centrist Democrats while pointing out that the Free Speech Coalition opposing them was a lobbying group backed by the pornography industry.
  • Lauer explained The online porn industry generates about $12 billion in annual sales, but none of the five stories explained that the proposed tax would generate up to $3 billion, depending on how many of the companies were based in the U.S. Although NBC Nightly News explained that foreign firms wouldnt be impacted by the plan, none of the stories addressed the likely relocation of Web companies offshore to beat the huge tax increase.
  • Lauer promoted the Today story by stating outright that the study was accurate and ignoring any bias the group might have. You might think that dirty old men are the biggest consumers of Internet pornography, but the real answer hits a lot closer to home for moms and dads everywhere, he said.
  • ABCs World News Tonight July 27 introduced the story with its own study claiming that A recent ABC News poll found that 44 percent of all teenage boys have visited a sexually explicit Web site at least once. ABC didnt bother to explain the difference between sexually explicit and pornography.
  • Today also interviewed Third Way President Jon Cowan, but never gave his background as an executive under President Bill Clinton. According to Third Ways own Web site, Cowan was Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, managing a federal agency of 9,000 employees with a $27 billion annual budget.


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