Category Archive 'Fairness Doctrine'

29 Oct 2008

Feel Comforted Now?

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Patrick Edaburn, at the Moderate Voice, tries assuring Republicans that America will remain a free country after Obama’s victory.

As we sit a week or so out from Election Day I have been having some interesting discussions with some of my conservative friends. They are paranoid about the prospect of a big Democratic victory next week and that it will result in all kinds of horrible things happening to them. They act like it is only a matter of time before they are all sent to internment camps for re-education.

Much as I did with my liberal friends 4 and 8 years ago I have done my best to convince them that while they might not care for the new agenda they are not going to see such harsh events. Whether it was the left paranoid that Bush was going to cancel the 2008 vote or the right convinced Obama will become President for Life, I always tried to remind them that we live in a free society and that is not going to change. …

This year I also understand why people on the right have fears. One visit to web sites like Daily Kos, Left Coaster, Huffington Post or Democratic Underground will open your eyes to some of the rhetoric is out of bounds. Many on these sites are not simply looking for success in November but to ‘purge the conservative movement’. These sites have hosted discussions of abolishing the Republican party and prohibiting anyone who voted Republican from having any rights in the future.

Of course these proposals are hardly likely to be acted upon, but the fact that these people sincerely hate anyone who disagrees with them is quite disturbing to say the least. Obviously the same kind of rhetoric has and does exist on the right but this year it seems a little stronger on the left, probably because they foresee victory and thus the ability to act on the ideas.

Except there is one proposal from the radical left, which obviously is under very serious consideration.

While many on the left were right to condemn those aspects of the Patriot Act that went too far in chilling free speech, some are now proposing a measure that would be equally restrictive.

The proposal is the so called Fairness Doctrine. While Obama has an least semi officially said he is not going to push the idea, many Democrats in Congress are firmly behind the idea. For those who don’t know the doctrine requires that media outlets give equal time to opposing views when they issue editorials.

On the surface it sounds somewhat reasonable, but when you look deeper you find that it is far from balanced.

For one thing it does not apply to any form of printed media. I think most of us would agree that the print media of newspapers and magazines is dominated by liberal views. This is not to say that there are not conservative publications out there, but most of them are liberal. Under the fairness doctrine none of these places would have to change anything or offer any space for opposing views.

Turning to television, I again think its fair to say that the liberal side is in the majority, though with Fox News there is a stronger conservative presence. The fairness doctrine would apply to television but only as far as opinions are being expressed. So NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, etc would be free to continue with their liberal slant in news while Fox would be free to continue with the conservative slant, at least in terms of straight news broadcasts.

Opinion shows would be forced to balance out, but again we would see most of the news broadcasts unchanged.

The real impact would be in the area of talk radio, where the conservatives are clearly in charge. THey would either have to offer equal time or shut down. So for every hour or Rush or Hannity you would need an hour of liberal views.

Thus looking at the 3 major segments of media (print, TV and radio) the fairness doctrine would do little to the first two but would dramatically impact the third, which just happens to be the major forum for center right viewpoints.

I am not a fan of the Limbaughs but I can certainly see why some on the right would look to this as an effort to basically suppress any opposing viewpoints. I don’t really expect Obama to do this any more than Bush did, but it doesn’t exactly look good to some on the right.

Be sure to vote next Tuesday.

23 Sep 2007

Breaking the Information Monopoly

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Ed Driscoll, Jr. explains how the consensus of the MSM originated, and how talk radio and the rise of the blogosphere re-opened public debate in the United States.

Prior to the 1920s, American newspapers and pamphleteers had a long, diverse history of vigorous, partisan debate. Which is why there are still newspapers with names like the Springfield Democrat and Shelbyville Republican.

That began to change with the rise of competition from the broadcast media. In the 1920s, because radio frequencies were finite, their allocation became heavily regulated by the federal government. As Shannon Love of the classically liberal Chicago Boyz ( economics blog explains, the federal government “took the radio spectrum, and instead of auctioning it off like land, essentially socialized it. And then they made the distribution of the broadcast spectrum basically a political decision.”

That, combined later with the FCC’s so-called “Fairness Doctrine—which required broadcasting networks to give “equal time” to opposing viewpoints—compelled broadcasters to maintain at least a veneer of impartiality in order to get and keep their licenses. A de facto political compromise was reached, Love says, “that the broadcast news would not be political—it would be objective and nonpartisan, was basically the idea. And then that carried over from radio to TV,” and eventually to print media. (That conceit continues to this day, as the media toss around words like “unbiased” and “objective” as easily as Dan Rather tosses off hoary, made-up Texas-isms.)

Completely dependent on the federal government, the broadcast industry’s most urgent priority became “don’t rock the boat.” And aping their broadcast competitors, newspapers began to adopt the mantle of impartiality, as well. A mass media that increasingly eschewed vibrant political debate helped FDR win four presidential elections handily, and Ike’s refusal to dismantle the New Deal in the 1950s only perpetuated its soft socialism. That era’s pervasive desire for consensus was symbolized by the ubiquitous Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and his centrist politics.

By the early 1970s, mass media had reached its zenith (if you’ll pardon the pun). Most Americans were getting their news from one of three TV networks’ half-hour nightly broadcasts. With the exception of New York, most big cities had only one or two primary newspapers. And no matter what a modern newspaper’s lineage, by and large its articles, except for local issues, came from global wire services like the Associated Press or Reuters; it took its editorial lead from the New York Times; and it claimed to be impartial (while usually failing miserably).

Up until the Reagan years, Love says, “definitely fewer than one hundred people, and maybe as few as twenty people, actually decided what constituted national news in the United States.” These individuals were principally concentrated within a few square blocks of midtown Manhattan, the middle of which was home to the offices of the New York Times. The aptly nicknamed “Gray Lady” largely shaped the editorial agendas not just of newspapers but of television, as well. As veteran TV news correspondent Bernard Goldberg wrote in his 2003 book Arrogance, “If the New York Times went on strike tomorrow morning, they’d have to cancel the CBS, NBC, and ABC evening newscasts tomorrow night.”

Love calls this “the Parliament of Clocks”: creating the illusion of truth or accuracy by force of consensus.

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