Yet so far all we’ve seen is the local TV news industry united in opposition to a proposal to make the political and media system more transparent by taking the information they already collect and putting it online — leading us back to the question: What is the fate of the “public interest obligation”? To review: Broadcasters oppose old-fashioned regulatory approaches. They so far oppose modern disclosure efforts. And they oppose free market strategies. To preserve their special form of corporate welfare, they have effectively adopted the motto, “if it is broke, why fix it?”

The answer to that question may have been provided by, of all people, Pope Benedict XVI. In a filing with the FCC, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops noted the Pope’s warning of the “distortion that occurs when the media industry becomes self-serving or solely profit driven, losing the sense of accountability to the common good.” Online disclosure requirements, the Bishops suggested, “move broadcasters closer to that sense of accountability.” Amen to that.

Steven Waldman was senior advisor to the Chairman of the FCC and principal author of its report on the changing media landscape. He was chair of the Council on Foundations Working Group on Nonprofit Media and is a consultant to the Pew Research Center. Before that, he was the founder of and a national correspondent for Newsweek.