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February 15, 2009

Revive The Fairness Doctrine

-- by Dave Johnson

Let's start a discussion about reviving the Fairness Doctrine to re-introduce the commons and the idea that we tell the corporations what to do!

A few years ago, in a popular post about the Fairness Doctrine, I wrote,

This "Fairness Doctrine" requirement was intended to protect the public from the possibility of moneyed interests buying up all of the information sources, leaving the public hearing only their viewpoint.
I think that this may be an opportunity - if done right - to reintroduce the public to the idea of the commons: that the public owns the resources of the country, and the laws, and has the power to tell corporations what to do instead of the other way around. If we can project that into the discussion, it leads straight to a discussion of the tight concentration of ownership of the media by a few corporations. What better issues than something called "Fairness" and that so clearly can be demonstrated. There just are no voices of labor and other non- corporate opinions on the airwaves. The public is ready to hear that.

The demise of the Fairness Doctrine paved the way for this media consolidation, because issues around media consolidation were no longer discussed in the media. And that's the problem now, as well, because it will be very difficult to get a good, honest, all-sides discussion of the commons and the Fairness Doctrine and media consolidation started -- because of media consolidation and lack of a Fairness Doctrine.

So do we let the corporations just win this? Reagan unilaterally scrapped public control of the airwaves, vetoed it when Congress voted to bring it back, and then the Republicans filibustered the majority in following years every time the Congress tried again. Does that mean the Congress should stop trying and we should all just let the matter drop, and leave the public thinking that corporations have the right to control the airwaves?

Or does renewing the fight revive public discussion and understanding of these issues, leading to increased understanding of the need for Net Neutrality so big corporations can't just block the public from even seeing union and progressive websites?

So I think reviving this fight is strategic, preparing the public for upcoming fights on all issues of public vs corporate control of public resources and decision-making.

In 96 I wrote,

Restoring the Fairness Doctrine would open up America's "marketplace of ideas." It would help to restore civility to our public discourse. It would help restore our democracy.
I say it is time to restore the Fairness doctrine.

Posted by Dave Johnson at February 15, 2009 10:33 AM


Comments

I think it's time for a history review, Comrade.

The Fairness Doctrine was introduced in 1949, along with the widespread deployment of television. The fear, at the time was that this was a powerful medium and, as you suggest, a few powerful corporations (CBS, NBC and ABC), could control public opinion if equal time to opposing viewpoints was not required. With the advent of cable, satellite, and the Internet, this concentration of power is gone. It is a free market of ideas today, and only needs controls put in place if you don't like the opinions being expressed and you want to quash them. Liberal radio (Air America, et al) had an opportunity enter the fray but failed miserably, because no one wanted to listen to their rants all day long. The only purpose of the Fairness Doctrine is to suppress talk radio, by requiring equal time of boring liberal radio and forcing station managers to drop all talk in favor of Top 40s.

Posted by: Bill O [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 15, 2009 2:48 PM

But the Fairness Doctrine NEVER required equal time. Only that stations serve the public in their communities by presenting a diversity of opinion. And if a person or organization is attacked by name they be allowed some time to respond.

Why are progressive shows canceled, when they have high ratings? For example, Phil Donahue was canceled when he was the highest-rated show on MSNBC.

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 15, 2009 3:03 PM

The Real Fairness doctrine was that Ownership was diverse and those who were singled out had a right of response, and cable companies were forced to carry all media transmitting in their area.

Even with this the only popularity contest was with advertisers and how enthusiastic their support was (both in cash to the Stations and to those in Government). As a result the primary view supported was for those with a lot of money.

As concentration grew, those forces grew as well and went from center right to extreme right. The only force in opposition was the rise of the Internet where huge funds are not required to have a voice (though even net neutrality is not preventing the cost from going up a lot to have a big voice)

Before this venue too is lost it is time that the whole accountability issue is rethought and reworked. The only real Socialism the Unsocialized Gang Of Pirates fear is the Socialized child/dog kind, that monsters of the like of Madoff or Enron are treated with the same justice as Republicans Dahmer, Bundy, or Gacy.

Posted by: FreeDem [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 16, 2009 3:29 PM

//I think it's time for a history review, Comrade.//

What an idiot. Typical delusional wacky wingnut comments. Isn't it weird how the wacky wingnuts do nothing but howl, piss, and moan about the "liberal media" until you mention the Fairness Doctrine, at which point, they begin to howl, piss, and moan about the one thing that would level the playing field? Sorry, wingnuts...can't have it both ways.

FACT: Media consoldation, which was pushed forward aggressively by the republiCONs since 1981, has resulted in 5 companies controlling every spoken word on our PUBLIC airwaves. Pretty much precisely what previous legislators were concerned about when they introduced the FD. Go figure, huh?

Don't believe that the wingnuts control the media? Witness any number of bullshit wingnut stories that have been launched through the rightwing echo chamber since they killed off the FD.

Robert Greenwald made an excellent film entitled "Outfoxed," that documents how this process works, from the creation of the wingnut talking points in wingnut "think tanks," to the distribution of said wingnut talking points to various wingnut propagandists throughout the mass media, and finally, to the "liberal MSM."

Case in point...remember the utter nonsense about Obama being trained in a terrorist training school as a child? A Madrassa...remember the term? TOTAL wingnut lie that started out as a wingnut talking point, was distributed to the wingnut propagandists, was broadcast on the wingnut network as "news," and was picked up by legitimate news agencies and reported as fact, even though it was nothing but a wingnut smear/lie.

CNN fact-checked, caught the lie, and issued a retraction within an hour or so, but that idiot John Gibson at Faux "news" continued to spew the lie throughout the day, and even continued to insinuate it as accurate long after it had been fully discredited.

As for AM radio, it's a proven FACT that progressive talk radio competes EXTREMELY well in head-to-head matches in which they compete against the lying wingnut propagandists. Thom Hartmann and Randi Rhodes routinely clobber the likes of pathetic O'Liely, Hannity, and even Limbaugh.

Yet, progressive radio remains relegated to tiny stations with tiny signal, for the most part. Why is that, do you suppose? Because wingnuts have bought up the stronger stations, and refuse to allow progressive programming, that's why. You remove the competition, and suddenly you can claim that only your voice is popular. It's complete bullshit, but coming from the delusional wingnuts, it's what we expect.

You wanna know how Limbaugh got so huge (other than eating too much, and too much sloth, of course)? He began his program at a time when AM radio was basically a dead format. Station owners virtually had nothing.

Clear Channel offered Limbaugh's program to these stations for free, in exchange for ad airtime. Shazam. Overnight, wingnut radio dominated the nation. Not because the public demanded it, but because it was given away, in exchange for ad profits.

The comparison to AAR is completely bogus as well, as is pretty much any argument that ever slithers out of a wingnut's twisted mouth. AAR didn't produce a program that was sold in syndication to existing stations. They built an entire AM radio network, from the ground up. Something that had never been done successfully.

Now, one can argue whether or not a bankruptcy equates to success, but you cannot argue that, after some necessary upper management changes and a restructuring of debt, the network has performed extremely well. As I've pointed out, on a level playing field, when competing head to head with wingnuts, progressive programming fares extremely well.

What the wacky wingnuts fear about a restoration of the Fairness Doctrine is that this total domination of the public airwaves that they've enjoyed for the past 20 years, will suddenly come to an end, and they'll have to face a level playing field. A situation in which, because of their obsession with lying, they simply do not fare terribly well. What kind of an idiot would listen to a non-stop vomiting of utter lies, when an equally strong signal comes with the light of truth?

The republiCON party is a walking corpse at this point. They have nothing, and they know it. They're forced to continue to live in their little bubble o' delusion, while they simply ignore reality around them. Screw them. It's time to bury this rotting corpse. Bring back some new version of the Fairness Doctrine, so that we can level the playing field and put these filthy, lying sons of bitches away for good.

Posted by: stickybooger [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 17, 2009 12:50 PM

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