|NRA to Launch News Company
FOX-News / AP April 16, 2004
WASHINGTON — The
nation's gun lobby is creating an "NRA news" company that will produce
a daily talk show for the Internet, buy a radio station and seek a
television deal to spread its gun-rights message nationwide.
Looking for the same legal
recognition as mainstream news organizations, the National Rifle Association
it has already hired its first reporter, a conservative talk radio host
from Oklahoma. NRANews.com
plans to start online broadcasts Friday.
The NRA is taking the step to operate free of political spending limits, hoping to use unlimited donations known as soft money (^) to focus on gun issues and candidates' positions despite the law's restrictions on soft money-financed political ads within days of the election.
"If that's the only way to bring back
the First Amendment (^),
we're going to bring it back," Wayne LaPierre, NRA
president, told The Associated Press. Under the nation's campaign
finance law, he said, "if you own the news operation, you can say
whatever you want. If you don't, you're gagged."
LaPierre said the NRA is taking several steps to become a "legitimate packager of news" like newspapers and TV networks, including hiring Cam Edwards, a conservative talk-show host from Oklahoma City.
Started with a $1 million investment, the Internet programming features news briefs in the morning and at noon, followed by a three-hour afternoon "news show/talk show" with Edwards as host.
The group is setting up
an NRA news corporation,
possibly for profit, to run its new media operations. It is
acquiring a radio station that will stream video of its NRA broadcasts
to the Internet, LaPierre said.
The NRA plans to own a
news operation "just as Disney
owns ABC, just as GE owns NBC, just as Time Warner AOL owns CNN, and
the broadcast journalist equivalent of those outlets," LaPierre said.
"Who's to say they're any more legitimate on packaging news to the American public on firearms and hunting than the National Rifle Association, when in fact we've been in the news business longer than they have in terms of packaging news on those subjects?" he asked.
Larry Noble, head of the Center for Responsive Politics
former lead attorney for the Federal Election Commission, said that if
the NRA operation has the trappings of a press entity -- such as a
radio outlet -- it has a strong argument that it is one.
"The law does allow news
media to editorialize and do
commentary. It's the reason The New York Times can endorse
in its editorials," Noble said. "So in one sense they are not
new ground, but they are going into an area that's still forming and
about which regulations are still being developed."
Whether Webcasts (^) alone would make the NRA a press entity is a harder question, Noble said. Congress and the FEC haven't dealt with the intersection of the Internet and the media, he said, "and the lines are blurring."
The NRA and several
other interest groups had sued
unsuccessfully to strike down campaign spending limits. The
in December by the Supreme Court, bans the use of corporate and labor
union money for ads targeting congressional and presidential candidates
close to elections and bars national party committees and federal
candidates from raising so-called "soft money."
The law left political activity on the Internet largely unregulated and maintained a long-standing media exemption from political advertising rules for news and entertainment programming.
News operations have been run with one person, but to
become a truly national news organization, the NRA will have to get
beyond one reporter and a few hours of airtime, said Gordon "Mac"
McKerral, national president of the Society of Professional
"Putting together a comprehensive news delivery package isn't an easy endeavor. It's people-intensive, which means it's expensive," McKerral said. "And there's so much out there now that any kind of startup operation like that is a challenge. If the NRA is successful at it, my guess is they'll limit their scope."
On the other hand, "if they think they can get into the game with one guy, maybe they know something the rest of those multibillion-dollar corporations don't," he said.
Mixing an agenda with
the news is nothing new,
McKerral said. When the nation's press was in its infancy,
were vehicles to promote political agendas.
Now, again, "it's getting awful tough, I think, for
people to sort out what's supposed to be objectively reported fact and
opinion, someone's opinion," McKerral said.
The NRA has a huge
potential audience, with 4 million
members, 16 million
licensed hunters and 80 million
gun owners in the
United States, LaPierre