Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A "Fairness Doctrine"

What could be fairer than that?

London Free Press editor-in-chief Paul Berton thinks that "it would be nice to see [Bill O'Reilly] muzzled," but that "it wouldn't be democratic."

Not so fast, Paul. If some members of the U.S. Congress have their way, conservative broadcasting will be, if not exactly muzzled, at least strategically compromised by regulating equal access for liberal viewpoints on radio and television — and it will be completely "democratic," not to mention Democratic as well. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a leading proponent of legislating a return to the Fairness Doctrine, said in January that "We know the media has become the servant of a very narrow corporate agenda" and added "we are now in a position to move a progressive agenda to where it is visible."

Naturally, forcing it ahead through regulation is just the progressive way of going about it. But one would have to look long and hard for a progressive agenda deficit in the American media, as even the elections of Kucinich and sympathetic petitioners would attest, unless one were looking precisely in one direction — talk radio, which is dominated in the U.S. by conservative commentary. Strikingly, the Fairness Doctrine would not apply in the print media which is dominated instead by liberal thought. The rationale for applying the Doctrine is that broadcasters are "trustees" of public airwaves leased to them by the government, but this is clearly a pretext copped from its original inception in 1949 when radio station frequencies were a very limited resource. In an abundant and competitive marketplace where conservative talk radio has succeeded strictly by its popular appeal since the Doctrine was dissolved in 1987, the scarcity argument has long been invalid, even if it had ever been "fair" in the first place. Reinstating the Doctrine would quite simply be nothing other than an attempt to "muzzle" conservative viewpoints, to borrow Berton's description.

The ellipsis in this account, of course, is that the Doctrine would also apply to television broadcasting which, with the noted exception of Fox News, is dominated instead by liberal or progressive viewpoints. One might hesitate to suppose what constitutes "opposing viewpoints" in the minds of FCC bureaucrats when applied to Fox as opposed to ABC, CBS, NBC or CNN, but a defining characteristic of modern liberal thought is precisely that it is convinced it already incorporates opposing viewpoints.

Unlike talk radio, but like its print collegiate, television journalism enlists its corps primarily from the ranks of degree recipients from progressive-dominated university journalism programs — this explains in part a general predisposition to liberal attitudes in these venues. But it is the regime of journalistic accreditation itself that prejudices this outcome. Convinced by the virtue of possessing credentials, editors and journalists assume a mission to be above the fray of unaccredited positions — that is, to be "impartial" or "objective, or to relate opposing viewpoints as a principle method of reporting. When conscientiously applied in individual reports, this approach can be informative. But when it is editorial policy, as it is in Berton's Free Press, impartiality forces on the media an attitude of compromise between opposing viewpoints. Not only is this a bias in itself, artificial compromise is the essential modern liberal proposition — to accommodate the irreconcilable opposites of right and wrong, sense and fashion, reality and wishful thinking, etc. One should say, to be precise, that the liberal agenda is exactly the attempt to hold opposing positions at the same time. Having been schooled and accredited under similar precepts, FCC bureaucrats could probably be expected to see it just the same way.

Finally, a letter to the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser in response to this editorial puts the Fairness Doctrine best this way:

I propose … that the Fairness Doctrine is already built into every electronic media vehicle available to Americans today in the form of on-off buttons and channel changers. If I do not like the editorial slant of a media outlet, I turn it off or change the channel, thereby ignoring its advertisers.


Paul McKeever said...

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

Mike said...

Unregulated political talk radio will always be a "right wing" medium, hence the push to renew this ridiculous law by making talk radio as boring as television and newspapers.

Talk radio is most interesting when opposing points of view are honestly argued and the hosts face strongly disagreeing callers and guests. Liberal propaganda simply cannot stand up to real time scrutiny and open debate. It requires the force of the state to survive on air and elsewhere. Hence the Fairness Doctrine.

The other "point of view" can only survive in one-way media where real time unsanitized response and counterargument from sensible people is impossible, such as TV news and old-fashioned newspapers.

The Fairness Doctrine is intended to remove advertising revenue from the talk radio format. Advertisers know that people like me will listen to, say, KRLA for hours and hours a day, all week, without tuning away. The Fairness Doctrine guarantees that my listenership will be chopped in half. Advertising would disappear from half of the day, since liberal talk radio is a proven failure everywhere it is tried. Not even leftists will listen. Observe the failure of Air America compared with the success of Limbaugh, Quinn, or the Salem network.

The idea of the Fairness Doctrine is to drag down successful radio shows that people actually want to listen to by making all political talk radio unprofitable and legally risky.

The Fairness Doctrine makes it smarter for a radio entrepreneur to run a hip hop station and not touch politics. That is the idea.

MapMaster said...

Thomas Dorman:

Now regarding the dialectic, you will find that most issues are discussed on television, etc., where "both sides" are presented. This is the dialectic process on your screen every night. The mere presentation of both sides implies that there is no absolute truth. More importantly, it is very likely that the absolute truth is exactly what is not debated on whatever program it is you are watching. If you accept that the purpose of the debate is to bring you into a synthesis (the dialectic ultimate stage) of opinion, it is very likely that you have been given two false concepts to debate, and your attention will be drawn away from what might have been obvious otherwise, that the real issue lies elsewhere. I would propose to you, even, that the very essence of news casting, programming, advertising, television series, soap operas, and virtually everything that is promoted by the mass media, uses this extraordinarily effective tool, the dialectic.

In its modern incarnation, it contains also the concept of the package deal. 'The package deal' is a term Ayn Rand coined to imply that something in the discussion is not mentioned but taken for granted, and the participant, listener, reader is sucked in to accepting this taken-for-granted concept by sleight-of-hand, unawares as it were.