Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fair and balanced lies.

I've long bemoaned the death of the fairness doctrine, which until the "Reagan Renaissance" allowed those defamed to defend themselves on broadcast TV and radio. The philosophy was that the spectrum belonged to everyone, so in return for being able to use it to sell us things, the broadcasters owed us the opportunity to challenge them when it came to news reporting and editorializing. Back then; back before Reagan, it was argued that it was not in the interest of the public who owned the "airwaves" to allow monopolies on news reporting either, but since the actor who played cowboys and presidents on TV decided that such things were unfair to the tycoonery, would-be demagogues have had a field day. They can lie and lie and lie and call it fair and balanced; they can libel, invent and smear without hindrance or consequence.

Republicans like it that way and now that there is renewed talk of having a responsible media that serves the public rather than the Republicans, we can expect lots of howling about how fairness isn't fair and responsibility is irresponsible. It has already begun. The Free Congress Foundation, another one of those right-wing advocacy groups, had an ad hoc discussion on April 13 about Don Imus and what his firing might mean for other radio personalities according to Alex Koppelman in Salon.com.

The fear seems to be that the FCC may be able to force people like Limbaugh and Coulter off the airfor their lies and slanders, although if it's argued that allowing time for rebuttal would do that one could argue that presidential debates or campaigns would likewise be bad for the country. I don't get it.

Face it, we are not well served by having a handful of plutocrats own all the news outlets any more than we are by allowing them freedom from criticism or competition. Both parties may wish to keep the status quo for obvious reasons, but if the Rutgers basketball team had been allowed time to rebut Imus on the air, if the people and organizations maligned by right wing talk radio hit men were allowed the same right to the public ear that Clear Channel and Rupert Murdock have purchased, it might be a better and better informed world and it might reduce the power of people like Al Sharpton to grind their own axes.

The fear of course, boils down to the threat to the propaganda machines of both parties, but the Republicans stand to loose a great deal if the public is allowed to talk back to Limbaugh. It's far less likely that any form of fairness doctrine would result in the FCC taking someone off the air for political reasons, in my opinion, than the possibility that Ann and Rush, fond as they are of talking about responsibility, might have to take responsibility for their words. Wouldn't that be nice?


Intellectual Insurgent said...

If it weren't for the internet, I don't think there would be any chance of getting anything fair and balanced in this climate.

Capt. Fogg said...

I agree - the net is full of liars, but so far - nobody controls it.