Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Fairness Doctrine's Fifth Act

 Tilting at Windmills?
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York is betting on the public outrage over recent payola pundits and media bias to help spur interest in her plan to revive the Fairness Doctrine. But she faces an uphill battle, especially in a Washington that is increasingly in the thrall of big media money and influence.

On January 26, she introduced the Fairness and Accountability in Broadcasting Act, or FAB, which would revive the Doctrine with new licensing requirements for broadcasters. Rescinded in 1987 by the Federal Communications Commission, the original doctrine made sure that radio and television broadcasters covered political topics with fairness and balance.

It ran afoul of a powerful broadcast lobby, that worked over an industry-friendly Reagan administration, tucked their bottom-line motivations behind First Amendment rhetoric and killed the fairness rule. To be sure, there are some legitimate concerns about free speech that need to be addressed if Slaughter's FAB is to succeed, but it might have more than a fighting chance if she and her cohorts play the public interest card right, by reaching out to grassroots and mobilizing multi-partisan support from the bottom up.

The success of the Reagan administration in overturning the Fairness Doctrine ushered in a new age of talk radio, writes Eric Boehlert, "allowing stations to broadcast one political point of view day after day, week after week. As (Democratic Congressman Maurice) Hinchey and others point out, talk radio has spurred a rightward tilt of the press." Since 1987, Washington's media lobby has further consolidated their hold on the capital, aided by hundreds of millions of industry dollars from media colossi such as General Electric, Viacom and News Corp.

Three Congressional attempts to reinstate the doctrine since 1987 died at the hands of vetoing presidents, pliant lawmakers, arm-twisting lobbyists and, in 1993, by the demagoguery of radio Icarus Rush Limbaugh, eager to scuttle any rule that would require him to look beyond his own nose for content. This time around, the same forces are lining up to bulldoze Slaughter's FAB.

While the Congresswoman and her allies face long odds, indeed, they're not just tilting at windmills. The media lobby may have underestimated those newly empowered media citizens beyond the Beltway -- the same Americans who came out en masse to protest the FCC's clandestine effort to relax the media ownership rules in 2003. A well orchestrated grassroots campaign -- employing local hearings, email campaigns and viral online organizing -- might succeed where Washington has failed, and break the industry's DC headlock on this issue.

To learn more about becoming involved, visit www.fairnessdoctrine.com, a project involving MediaChannel.org coalition partner Media Access Project.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have long wondered what happened to the Anti-Trust / Monopoly laws.
The problem you speak of exists not only in the Media, it grows tumorlike, seeded in Corporate America. Without fail, when the "Because We Say So" coproration takes over a smaller competitor, thousands loose thier jobs, and prices inevitably rise. Government can't be run solely as a business. Government needs to look out for the populace and keep greedy hands out of the cookie jar.

How did this happen? Corporate Pirates plunder the public and are rewarded with scores of millions in severance pay and lifetime perks! Could John Kerry have put an end to it? I for one, think that he could and most certainly, he would have tried! Between the ill-conceieved and hastily adopted Patriot Act, and those cavernous corporate pockets, it will take a massive effort in order to slow this down to re-elect a moderate government. One that is in fact, "For the people".

At the moment, slanted media and corrupted bureaucrats are in charge. While the national media was agahst at the falsified documents NBC reported about George W's cowardly service record (even though we know it's the truth; they just can't find the paperwork!), John Kerry was skewered and Bar-B-Qued for weeks, over the lies of a few sell-out Veterans. Liars who were eventually debunked and inexplicably forgotten.

George Bush was elected because Big Business wanted him elected! It's unfortunate that our President could be so blatently and completely duped. I fear History will know him as, "The President who fiddled while America burned!" The Robber Barons are back, and they are in charge!

Anonymous said...

John Kerry could have saved us from the big bad Corporations? The man is physically in bed with Big Business. What, do you think the Heinz heiress would miss the opportunity to utilize the Office of the President? Bush/Cheney are using our military might to fight oil battles. Nothing new. We've fought them for the fruit companies, sugar companies, and the list goes on. If Kerry had won, we'd be fighting tomato farmers in some other poor, but fertile land......In the name of freedom of course. Pass the ketchup, please.