Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The last week or so of extremely heavy media use by the White House and the resultant minor, variable and seemingly positive opinion poll shifts for Mr. Bush prove an old PBS pledge break axiom learned when I began my television career at a PBS station in 1972.
The pledge break rule had two parts.
The first part said that money raised was directly proportional to the length of time spent, on the air, begging for it.
The second part said that recordings of telephones ringing, broadcast behind the voices of the on-camera people, would guarantee real paying callers.
These rules, to my then 17 year-old mind, seemed completely degrading to the unique individual souls my religion and personal sense of morality celebrated.
As phone callers, over the years, dutifully and depressingly reacted like cattle after a televised goad, I learned there were federal provisions, governing fairness, accuracy, equal opportunity and impartiality, that protected this gullible mass creature, representing the broadcast audience.
The fairness provisions vanished in 1987 when President Reagan vetoed congressional legislation that would have turned what had been FCC policy into Federal Law.
Actual Federal Law, Section 315 of the Communications Act of 1937, required stations to offer "equal opportunity" to subsets of the total audience.
Though watered-down considerably by FCC declaratory rulings that transformed Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael and The Howard Stern Show into “bona fide” and 315-exempt news programs, Section 315 and the Fairness Doctrine had worked in tandem since the 1940’s to protect all viewers.
Broadcasting companies and early information technology movers hated the expense caused by these Federal protections on the public airwaves and worked for their elimination.
The abolition of Fairness was one of the first great successes of the nascent rightwing corporate/political echo chamber.
Reagan’s FCC chairman Mark Fowler, in the early cell phone/internet nick of time, had successfully changed broadcasters from “community trustees” into “marketplace participants” on the verdant and easily plucked fields of the gloriously illusory rightwing Free Market shibboleth.
But, unlike the policies and rules of governments, people are not so quick to change the stripes of their behaviors.
The fragile mass human creature I described earlier, now infinitely magnified, marketed and broadcast over cell and internet transmissions, is free to be fleeced and manipulated by marketplace beasts more toothsome and sly than a mere local public TV station needing 1972-era dollars.
The President’s modest, pre FISA-wiretap scandal poll bump merely reflects his recent monopolization of broadcast and cable frequencies on an almost daily basis.
Life as a PBA pledge break.
Play the ringing phone sound effect, sit back and watch the phone calls happen.
Happily, individual humans are often far more cynical and prudent than their, slightly since 1972, more sophisticated mass counterpart.

Modified Image:, Reuters
Well, tie me to a hog's belly and drag me thu tha muuud! Sean Freakin' Malloy. Just got off the phone with Buckley and he told me about your blog, so I Googled it.

I gather from your posts that you're a big Bush supporter. Heh. Tom's gonna send me your e-mail if he can find it, and I'll give you a shout.
Well, Craig, if you would look in the upper right corner of this blog you would find my email address...but, couldn't the wife just flag some select NSA intercepts and save you the trouble?
Fine, smartass. How are people supposed to find it in that regular type? You know nobody reads that stuff, right? C'mon, this is SAST here, ya gotta highlight it.
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