Sunday, October 17, 2010

Good News For A Change [Anthony McCarthy]

Sue Wilson's short article about the Fairness Doctrine at Buzzflash is the best news I've read this week, other than the rescue of the miners. Donna Brazile, of all people, has put her finger on what should have been among the first priorities of the Democrats once they regained power, re-instituting the Fairness Doctrine. Nothing will change for the better until the publicly owned airwaves are returned to the business of accurately informing The People, nothing.

Sue Wilson's article is an excellent history of the Fairness Doctrine, especially in how it was destroyed by Ronald Reagan and why. She also presents how Newt Gingrich, of all people, tried to restore it and why that proposal went the way of term limits once his situation changed:

But Fairness? Equal Time? Reasoned discourse? Those went out the window in 1987 with - drumroll, please - President Ronald Reagan.

Reagan was, of course, a consummate media man. Not simply the star of B movies like "Bedtime for Bonzo," Reagan also hosted television's "GE Theater." The so-called "Great Communicator" then went on to become President of the Screen Actors Guild, profiting from programs while robbing actors of royalties.

More than any president before or since, Reagan understood the power of TV and radio. So it's no coincidence that President Ronald Reagan, by fiat, eliminated fairness in broadcasting. He knew what would happen if one side - his side - could control the message.

(It's interesting to note that after Reagan's action, both houses of Congress immediately passed bills - co-sponsored by Newt Gingrich - to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. But both Reagan and George Bush the First vetoed those bills. For the 2009 documentary film I made on this topic, "Broadcast Blues," Gingrich refused to answer questions about why he's changed his tune. No great surprise: put simply, Gingrich must understand that Republicans can win elections only if they can control Radio.)

It was one of the first big disappointments I had in Barack Obama when I found out he wasn't going to try to restore the Fairness Doctrine and other measures to insure that the media monopoly by the corporate right didn't continue. I'd imagine it's because of his adoption of the predominant and absurd libertarian legal fads that have served us so badly over the past forty years. That libertarianism has become the dominant assumption of the entire spectrum of the political class, it is one of the biggest reasons that liberalism has declined. As many of you are probably tired of hearing me say it, the resulting ignorance and propagandizing of voters is even more of a danger to self-government than our corrupt voting systems.

The idea that the media which has shown it will always devolve into a service industry for the highest payer will ever serve democracy, without that requirement, is, I'd say, far more willful denial of the clear truth than creationism or climate change denial. And a surprising number of liberals, especially bloggers, buy that untruth, which is oh, so convenient for the Republican-corporate party. And, I'll point out in passing, I have noticed most of those people I've read are white males of higher income, generally the last group to get it.

It was part of the shock, for me, to see that it was Donna Brazile saying it in Oprah's magazine, but maybe that's something that shouldn't have shocked me at all.

Old Business: In contrast to the immediate firing of Rick Sanchez for his anti-Semitic implications, Brian Kilmeade will not lose his job for a far more seriously anti-Muslim slur he made on FOX last week. Apparently the Sanchez standard is not a matter of fairness. But FOX would probably empty out if those who spew it's nonstop hatred of women, Latinos, GLBT, etc. suddenly found out how wonderful the economic policies they've pushed are for those without a large salary and benefits.