Friday, June 29, 2007
The disgraced corporatist neoconservative movement, fresh from the ongoing Bush calamities designed with the collusion of a big media made more pliable via deregulation, mergers, and downsizing have once more focused their close-set, gimlet eyes upon the Reagan-era means by which they secured long-term victory, the outlawed Fairness Doctrine and the ongoing but unenforced Equal Time Provisions of the Federal Communications Code.
As with the Iraq War failures and all things Bush, shills paid by the corporatist group minds would have us believe a scarier, for us, and more lucrative, for them, set of imaginary beliefs rather than facts culled from the yet unscrubbed historic record and recent news cycle transits.
According to corporatists like Wall Street Journal Deputy Editorial page Editor Daniel Henninger, the years before the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine within the broadcast media were:
Once a mostly exclusive liberal country club…[that] ensured that incumbents got "free" TV coverage across their terms while challengers got crumbs.
The "free" use Henninger mentions was actually fair use in a news event as described in the federal law.
Henninger's alleged "crumbs", the niggardly bits reserved for electoral challengers, reflect flabby enforcement by political appointees at the Federal Communications Commission over time rather than any deficiency with the federal code, but this WSJ hack doesn't want you to know that.
Henninger wants to misinform and play on the popular unease and governmental mistrust following Immigration Reform's noisy clubbing.
A newly rating-challenged right wing Echo Chamber is basing a new straw man on various reworked, debunked themes involving ratings, popularity and talk radio’s influence upon the immigration debate (kind of an “up yours” to fellow media megalomaniac Lou Dobbs) and are now implying that the Fairness Doctrine they eliminated would, if reinstituted, ban listener or viewer call-in programs and thus kill the (wink, wink) supposedly free and open public debate forums we’ve allegedly enjoyed since Fairness was strangled shortly before Rush Limbaugh’s first national broadcast in 1987.
Contrary to the freshly minted winger deregulation myth that “Reagan tore down this wall in 1987”, the record clearly shows that this intentional destruction, coupled with other intentional deregulatory acts, poisoned the “public interest standard” which had governed broadcasting since Section 315 [47 U.S.C. §315] of 1933 Radio Act was amended in the 1940s to allow broadcast entities, as license-proven guardians of that public interest, a broader editorial influence in locally-generated content.
The rules, such as they were and still are, govern broadcasting entities and not, as the corporatists imply, ordinary citizens.
As Fairness was eliminated, Reagan’s FCC also loosened the classifications for what constituted news programming, a programming classification generally exempt from the still extant Equal Time Provisions of the Radio Act.
The Equal Time Provisions simply ensured that equal broadcast time was given to all legally qualified candidates for public office outside of “bona fide” news programming.
If a public official, running for office, appeared in a “bona fide newscast, news interview or news documentary” commenting on that days issue in their role as a current office-holder this appearance would not require an extension of equal time to the other candidates and would constitute "fair use".
If that office-holder appeared on a program not classified as "news" or, in a bona fide newscast made a non germane remark or attacked an opponent, the broadcast licensee:
Shall, within a reasonable time and in no event later than 1 week after the attack, transmit to the person or group attacked (1) notification of the date, time and identification of the broadcast; (2) a script or tape (or an accurate summary if a script or tape is not available) of the attack; and (3) an offer of a reasonable opportunity to respond over the licensee's facilities.
If, during the 45 days before a primary or 60 days preceding a general or special election, the office-holder is broadcast on any programming classification other than news (sports, entertainment, instructional) the broadcaster would have to extend the exact amount of airtime as close to the exact time of the offending broadcast to every other candidate seeking that same office.
With Fairness eliminated, Reagan’s FCC thus started to reclassify non news programming like Donahue, Rush, Howard Stern and Sally Jesse Raphael as news and began to ignore the Equal Time provisions of the United States Code.
Without Fairness, personal attacks and political editorializing, precisely codified into the federal communications regulations after the Red Lion case in 1967, entered the marketplace in disguises as varied as the newly disguised newscasts, call-in shows and round-table discussion programs.
The return of Fairness to the broadcast and cable outlets of the large media conglomerates, the reasonable classification of programming content and real enforcement of the Equal Time Provisions would not eliminate personal attacks, hate speech and disinformation from our airwaves but would prevent these sophisticated political techniques from dominating the marketplace as they have since 1987 and as they do now.
Only a fool, a Wall Street Journal Deputy Editorial page Editor or a Robert’s court conservative jurist could claim to see diversity within today’s corporate media elite.
A restoration of the Fairness Doctrine within the newly expanding digital media marketplace will not silence speech but will ensure diversity and safeguard diverse speech from the last 20 years of far right manipulation and excess.
Compliance with Fairness was and will be, if restored, an expense for the license holding corporations.
The failure of Bush’s privatized Social Security, hurt corporate profitability.
The failure of the misnamed Immigration Reform has hurt the corporate bottom line of many a Bush Pioneer and wanna-be McSlaver.
Is it any wonder the corporatist Echo Chamber pales at the thought of pricy Fairness Doctrine compliance?
This blogger on Fairness from September 2003
Image: RKO Radio Pictures