Trump Threatens NBC’s Broadcast License in a Straight-Up Tyrannical Move

Determined to emulate his hero, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump has issued a threat that brazenly violates the Constitutional guarantee of a free press. In a couple of utterly idiotic tweets, Trump threatened to challenge NBC’s broadcast license.

Donald Trump

Make no mistake, this is what dictators do. They begin by criticizing the media and ridiculing honest journalists. But they eventually resort to outright censorship and government control. Trump has already been lashing out at the press for years. But his repetitive and tedious cries of “fake news” are actually just whining about stories that he doesn’t like. These are his tweets Wednesday morning:

And This Just In: Another tweet:

First of all, Trump offers no support for his contention that NBC’s story is untrue. NBC is standing by the story which had numerous sources affirming the information. This is typical of Trump’s infantile reaction to anything remotely critical. His fragile ego is constantly on the brink of crumbling.

Secondly, Trump’s threat is another example of his Olympic-grade stupidity. If anyone still doubts that Defense Secretary Rex Tillerson called him a moron, you can set those doubts aside. The problem with Trump’s threat to challenge NBC’s license is that the government does not license television networks. There is no license to revoke. The FCC does license individual TV stations and requires them to serve in the public interest. There’s is no way that Trump could have the licenses pulled from every NBC affiliate throughout the country.

Even if Trump were dumb enough to pursue this, he would have to show that each affiliate deliberately broadcast false information that they knew was untrue. Of course, the network most guilty of doing that is Fox News. If that’s the standard being applied then let’s get Fox off the air ASAP. [NOTE: That isn’t possible either because the FCC rules apply only to broadcast television, not to cable].

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

So once again Trump has demonstrated that he is painfully stupid. And in the process he reaffirmed his devotion to authoritarian control of the media and government. He is clearly unfit to be president and is a danger to the country for this and many other reasons. That’s why an anxious nation is impatiently waiting for special counsel Robert Mueller to complete his investigation and for Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings. It can’t happen too soon.

GOP Leader Seeks To Reverse Ban On Snipe Hunting

SnipeIn a speech at the Akron Sportsman’s Lodge, Republican House Speaker John Boehner promised local game stalkers that he would soon be taking up legislation to remove snipes from the endangered species list. This action is a prerequisite for granting permits for snipe hunts. Boehner told the appreciative audience that he has long advocated this measure and that he believes there is no justification for continuing to protect the elusive snipe.

In other legislative news, Boehner told the National Religious Broadcasters convention that the House would act to pass legislation that would ban any attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. He told the NRB gathering that…

“…some members of Congress and the federal bureaucracy are still trying to reinstate – and even expand – the Fairness Doctrine. To them, it’s fair to silence ideas and voices they don’t agree with, and use the tools of government to do it. […] Our new majority is committed to seeing that the government does not reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.”

Speaker Boehner did not name any of the congressmen or bureaucrats that supposedly want to reinstate the Doctrine. He did not inform the group that there have been no bills introduced or hearings scheduled on the subject. He also did not mention that both President Obama and FCC Chairman Genachowski are both on record opposing reinstatement of the Doctrine. So Boehner is taking a courageous stand in opposition to something that nobody has proposed or is working on.

Boehner also spoke to the NRB about his opposition to Network Neutrality, or as he called it, “the Fairness Doctrine for the Internet.” In the process he repeatedly mischaracterized the matter as a “government takeover of the Internet.” His remarks were somewhat confusing as he sought to define the issue:

“It’s a series of regulations that empower the federal bureaucracy to regulate Internet content and viewpoint discrimination. The rules are written vaguely, of course, to allow the FCC free reign. The last thing we need, in my view, is the FCC serving as Internet traffic controller.”

Of course the truth is that Network Neutrality has nothing whatsoever to do with “content and viewpoint discrimination.” In fact, it is just the opposite as it’s only purpose is to preserve a purely non-discriminatory environment on the web. Not only does it not designate the FCC as a “traffic controller,” it prohibits the corporations who presently have that power from abusing it. Boehner’s position is to deny the FCC a magisterial role that isn’t in the initiative, but allow it for AT&T and Comcast.

To recap: Boehner wants to stop an Internet policy from doing something that it doesn’t do. He also wants to block a broadcast doctrine that no one is proposing. Those are tall orders that should keep him busy in the coming weeks and months while the nation is struggling to recover from an economic calamity and is crying out for solutions to stubborn problems like unemployment, the national debt, and enduring wars.

At least we can wish Boehner well on his snipe hunt – something with which he is apparently well acquainted.

Fight The FCC’s Phony Net Neutrality Plan

One of the most promising signs of the early Obama administration was the appointment of Julius Genachowski to chair the FCC. There was significant hope that the days of coddling Big Media and permitting more consolidation and concentration of corporate influence was about to end. However, it is now turning into one of the most disappointing appointments as Genachowski appears to be caving on Network Neutrality, one of the most important free speech issues of this decade.

The New York Times is reporting that “Genachowski has decided not to use the commission’s telephone regulatory powers to govern broadband Internet service.” He also seems to be prepared to allow Internet service providers to engage in “paid prioritization,” which could lead to favoritism on the part of the ISPs and discrimination against smaller, independent web enterprises.

This is not exactly the sort of plan that was promised by candidate Obama in 2008. It charts a course that smothers efforts to increase broadband access while giving more control of the Internet to monopoly-minded corporations. Josh Silver of summarizes the ill-effects of this proposal as “a shiny jewel for companies like AT&T and Comcast.”

Net Neutrality has been a target of right-wing disinformation for several years. They wrongly portray it as anything from a new Fairness Doctrine to something out of Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia. That is how obsessed they are with defeating a proposal whose actual purpose is to protect a free and open Internet. That’s how obsessed they are with advancing the interests of their wealthy benefactors at the expense of the American people.

This administration has been notably weak-kneed when it comes to anything remotely controversial. They demonstrated this tendency to bail with Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod, the Public Option in the health care debate, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and presently the matter of extending tax cuts to the wealthy. It seems that any opposition to common sense progressive proposals is met with complete surrender. We can’t let liars like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh drive the debate. And we can’t let the White House cave in to pressure from factions that represent greed and corporate power.

You can fight back by signing this petition from Bold Progressives to urge the FCC to protect free speech online by supporting Net Neutrality. And here’s another from Credo Action. Or you can use this form to contact the FCC directly and submit your comments. But you only have a couple of weeks, so act soon. You will surely regret it if you don’t and you later find that you can’t access some of your favorite web sites because they were blocked by ISPs because they couldn’t pay the toll.

Justice Scalia Knows Foul-Mouthed Glitteratae

The Supreme Court ruled today on a case pitting Fox Entertainment against the FCC and involving the use of naughty language on TV. The crux of the debate centered on “fleeting expletives” like when Bono of U2 appeared at an awards ceremony and used the phrase “fucking brilliant” in his acceptance speech.

The court’s ruling actually shied away from taking a position on the Constitutional question of free speech, preferring to decide narrowly on whether the FCC rules were “arbitrary and capricious.” In the end, with six justices writing separate opinions, the court overruled by 5 to 4 a 2nd Circuit decision in favor of Fox. The decision affirmed the FCC’s regulations regarding profanity, but sent the issue of free speech back to the 2nd Circuit for a reasoned analysis.

In this matter I would actually line up with Fox inasmuch I don’t like the FCC setting moral boundaries for expression. But Justice Antonin Scalia had to go and make such an asinine statement in his opinion that I just can’t let it stand:

“We doubt, to begin with, that small-town broadcasters run a heightened risk of liability for indecent utterances. In programming that they originate, their down-home local guests probably employ vulgarity less than big-city folks; and small-town stations generally cannot afford or cannot attract foul-mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood.”

What a complete and utterly idiotic remark. Brooklyn-bred Scalia obviously doesn’t know a fucking thing about down-home folks or small towns. He is a big-city, elitist asshole whose only acquaintance with Hollywood glitteratae is via his perverse imagination and insulting stereotypes.

It is embarrassing beyond description that someone this stupid remains a sitting Justice on America’s highest court.

Rush Limbaugh’s Ego Is Fatter Than He Is

President Barack Obama reiterated today that he is does not support the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. He said so previously, during the campaign, and has been consistent in this regard. That hasn’t stopped the hysterical ranting of rightist fear mongers who seek to use the issue to stir panic amongst the peasants, and to shake them down for contributions.

There are even reports of clandestine meetings between mysterious plotters in Congress and the FCC. The purpose of these cabals is to impose the evil specter of fairness on America. Never mind that the alleged FCC and congressional participants flatly denied that any such meetings took place – and, of course, that the President wouldn’t sanction it anyway.

It is, however, no longer sufficient for one to unequivocally state opposition to the Doctrine. The anti-Fairness fanatics now insist that such proclamations are simply not to be believed. The plotters are purposefully prevaricating to permit them to proceed with their plot. What’s more, they contend, without any evidence, that the threat now extends to cable TV and the Internet, mediums for which the Doctrine never applied. None of these accusations are supported by facts – or reality – they are just regurgitated repeatedly by right-wing conspiracy theorists.

At the top of that heap is Rush Limbaugh. On his radio program today, he rambled through all of the usual delusional blather about the Fairness Doctrine, but strayed into territory even further from sanity. He now says that ACORN is “gearing up to enforce the same type of restrictions on broadcasting that the Fairness Doctrine would require.” He doesn’t bother to explain when ACORN got into the media business. I guess they are just a proxy for anything these braying asses feel like wailing on. After falsely accusing ACORN of voter fraud, and blaming them for the mortgage meltdown, and asserting that they are behind the return of the Fairness Doctrine, I expect the next startling revelation will be their membership in Al Qaeda (A-Qaorn?).

But Limbaugh is not off the crazy train yet. In a grand feat of self-obsessed paranoia, Limbaugh imagines that his thoughts on the Fairness Doctrine are being stolen:

“The Wall Street Journal, two days ago, asked me for an op-ed on this. I submitted the op-ed this morning. It is an open letter to President Obama asking for clarity and definitive answer on — on censorship of the media. Now, I’m wondering. I am just wondering if somebody along the line did not leak my op-ed and the White House heard of it coming and they want to preempt its publication.”

That’s the Wall Street Journal – Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda rag – that Limbaugh is accusing of sabotaging his op-ed.

“And outta nowhere, out of nowhere, on Fox, some spokesman says Obama’s not even considering it? Why now? I mean that didn’t come up at the housing meeting today. It didn’t come up in Denver yesterday. It hasn’t come up on Air Force One. Where did it come up from? I didn’t tell anyone. I mean, I told, you know, a couple friends that I was going to write this thing. It’s fascinating stuff going on there. The intrigue, ladies and gentlemen.”

That’s Fox News – Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda cable net – that Limbaugh is accusing of invading his mind.

The only problem with this exhibition of ego gone wild is that the issue of the Fairness Doctrine has been coming up for weeks. It has been written about in numerous conservative publications and web sites (see Human Events and World Net Daily). Robert Gibbs, the President’s Press Secretary, has taken questions about it in White House briefings – TWICE. It seems to be the most talked about issue in the media other than the Stimulus Bill. Just ask Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and even Rush Limbaugh. Yet Limbaugh says that it hasn’t come up, and some unseen enemy with access to his dementia is leaking his brain droppings to Fox News and the White House. The dark forces are descending upon him even as he laments that he must refrain from speaking it aloud:

“I’m reluctant to talk about this, because I don’t want to sound like a victim. I don’t want to sound like, ‘They’re coming after me! They’re coming after me! (crying).’ But they’re going after any area there is dissent.”

For a guy who doesn’t want to sound like a victim, he sure seems to be focusing a lot on how the world is conspiring against him.

Even More Right-Wing Stupidity On The Fairness Doctrine

I’m getting a little tired of writing these responses to the paranoid rightist Chicken Littles who persistently pretend to be aghast at the prospect of the return of the Fairness Doctrine. I mean, how many ways can you say that it isn’t going to happen? There is no legislation being drafted. There are no hearings being held. There are no advocates speechifying on it. There are no agencies studying it. And yet every conservative blowhard with a pen or a microphone is fretting about it and attempting to incite panic (and donations) amongst their followers.

Now Jed Babbin and Rowan Scarborough at Human Events have aggregated what may be the most comprehensive collection of inane and fallacious griping related to the matter. Here I will respond point by point in the hopes of settling the issue once and for all (yeah, right).

1) “Conservative talk radio is the most potent political weapon in America.”
That’s why it was so successful in turning back Barack Obama and the wave of Democrats cresting over Congress. That’s why President Bush will leave office with such a high approval rating. That’s why Americans overwhelmingly prefer the Republican agenda over the Democrats’. Oh, wait…..reverse that. Contrary to being a “potent political weapon,” conservative talk radio is more like soggy, day-old pasta.

2) “Liberal talk radio has been a huge failure.”
Don’t tell that to Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Rachel Maddow, etc. They are top performers in many of the markets in which they play. The rightist mantra about radio’s alleged rejection of liberals is based on the tale of Air America’s financial woes. What they don’t tell you is that Fox News lost $80-90 million a year for its first five years. They were fortunate to have Rupert Murdoch’s deep pockets to keep them out of bankruptcy. Air America is still not five years old. And they won’t talk about failures either, including John Gibson, Michael Reagan, and Bill O’Reilly who just ditched his struggling radio show.

3) “[T]he liberal control of both sides of Capitol Hill, along with a compliant Obama Administration, may bring [the Fairness Doctrine] back…”
As noted above, no side of Congress is planning any such thing. And on what basis are they alleging that Obama’s administration will be “compliant” toward Congress?

4) “The Censorship Doctrine would require conservative talk radio to spend a large part of its time praising liberals and their ideas […] Can you imagine what talk radio would sound like if every time a host talked about the newest liberal outrage, he then had to give the liberals equal time?”
Now they’re just making stuff up. There has never been a provision of the Fairness Doctrine that mandated any party “praise” any other party. And “equal time” was never a part of the Fairness Doctrine. Do these guys have even an inkling of understanding of the subjects about which they’re writing?

5) “Liberals now control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, providing the political left its most absolute hold on power since the 1960s.”
Or the 1990’s, when Democrats held all three branches. Babbin and company were only 30 years off.

6) “Other than the Supreme Court, there’s nothing to prevent them from trying to attach the same rules to other media, including cable television and the Internet.”
That’s like saying that other than gravity there is nothing preventing you floating off into space. Plus, the Fairness Doctrine has never applied to anything but publicly owned and scarce assets like broadcast spectrum. Thus, cable and the Internet would never have been subject to its jurisdiction. Later in this article they claim that the FCC will expand the Doctrine to include Network Neutrality. That doesn’t even make sense since Network Neutrality is about open access to the Internet and has nothing to do with content. This is the right’s way of paying off the big Telecom corporations who benefit from closed systems from which they can gouge both web businesses and consumers.

7) “What left-wing blogger would not like to see Rush Limbaugh led await [sic] in handcuffs from his Palm Beach, Fla., estate for failing to present balanced programming?”
Wasn’t Rush Limbaugh already led away in handcuffs from his Palm Beach, Fla., estate for drug possession and forcing his housekeeper to purchase his contraband? I must admit, that was great to see. However, Babbin and Scarborough are once again showing their ignorance by suggesting that violations of the Fairness Doctrine were ever criminal offenses that would lead to arrest. In fact, the Doctrine was never codified into law at all. It was a regulatory statute and the worst that could happen to a violator was a fine or license review.

8) “The problem is that Limbaugh has a sense of humor. Liberals don’t.”
That’s why Jon Stewart is so reviled and Dennis Miller is so adored. Seriously, did any of these dolts ever see the abominable Half-Hour News Hour on Fox News? The problem is that conservatives actually regard Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as comedians, but everyone else considers them clowns.

The lies scattered throughout this column are typical of the ethical vacuum from which the right operates. They have no shame when it comes to propagating falsehoods for their greedy self-interest. In one particularly abhorrent instance they claim that former Sen. Tom Daschle got overheated because Limbaugh called him an “obstructionist.” That truth, ignored by these authors, is that Limbaugh also called him a traitor and routinely referred to him as the devil. Dashchle’s alleged anger was actually just an admonition that that sort of shrill rhetoric has the potential to incite people to act out violently. And on this issue Dashcle can speak with authority. He was, you may recall, the target of a terrorist Anthrax attack in the days following 9/11. But Babbin and Scarborough can’t be bothered with insignificant facts like that. Just as they can’t be bothered to display some sensitivity to a victim of an attack that infected 22 people and killed five.

As much as I would like for this to be the last time I have to shoot down fraudulent fulminations such as this, I expect that there will be more forthcoming. The Babbins and Scarboroughs of the world have so little upon which to base their ranting, they will cling to non-issues like these until their readers eyes have nothing left to bleed. And they will lie with abandon because they regard the truth as just an impediment to their propagandizing.

Obama To Name Julius Genachowski To Chair The FCC

Remember this name: Julius Genachowski. He appears to be Barack Obama’s choice for chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. In that role he will have an opportunity to not only undue a lot of the damage done by Bush’s henchmen in the post, Michael Powell and Kevin Martin, but he can actually make progress toward a more competitive and diverse environment in the media community.

Josh Silver, executive director of the media reform group, Free Press, issued the following statement:

“Under Julius Genachowski’s leadership, the FCC’s compass would point toward the public interest. President-elect Obama has provided a clear roadmap of his media and technology priorities. We share Obama’s goals of creating a more diverse, democratic media system and providing fast, affordable, open Internet access for everyone. We greatly look forward to working with Mr. Genachowski to put the president-elect’s plan into action.

“The challenges facing the next FCC are enormous — a vast digital divide, an open Internet in jeopardy, consolidated media ownership, newsrooms in economic freefall and entrenched industries invested in maintaining the status quo. This moment calls for bold and immediate steps to spur competition, foster innovation and breathe new life into our communications sector. With his unique blend of business and governmental experience, Genachowski promises to provide the strong leadership we need.”

I thoroughly agree. It is encouraging that the FCC will finally be run by someone with the specific skills and experience to address the many challenges ahead – as opposed to the cronies who were installed solely to pursue the interests of Big Media and the friends of a corrupt White House. Kevin Martin was recently the subject of a Congressional report titled “Deception and Distrust” that cited his abuse of power in his role at the FCC.

While we must continue to monitor the actual performance of the new administration, there is a certain sense of relief that a new era is dawning, and I wish Mr. Genachowski well as assumes the leadership of a critical agency overseeing some of the most fundamental rights of American society.

Update: After Genachowski assumes the leadership of the FCC, the outgoing chair, Kevin Martin, will become a fellow at the Aspen Institute. By embracing Martin, the AI has shown that it has pretty low standards for integrity. Apparently they consider it a badge of honor to be repudiated by Congress as deceptive and untrustworthy.

Media Reform Alliance Presses Obama To Keep His Word

Free Press has assembled over 100 media reform organizations and activists to sign a letter to President-elect Barack Obama that asks, in essence, for him to implement the media agenda that he articulated in his campaign. What follows is from the press release issued by Free Press:

We congratulate you for putting crucial media and technology issues in the public spotlight. Not only did your campaign embrace new technology and innovative media, you have embraced these values in your policy agenda. Your commitment and detailed plan represent a fundamental shift toward communications policy in the public interest. We happily offer our support and service in pursuit of our common goals.

We look forward to working with the leaders you will appoint to the White House, such as the Chief Technology Officer, the positions on the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, Corporation of Public Broadcasting and in the Commerce, Education, Justice and Agriculture departments. We urge you to select strong proponents of the public interest who will embrace and enact the policy proposals you made on the campaign trail to shape the future of the media, the Internet, the economy — and our democracy.

Together, we have a unique opportunity to break with the past, lift the stranglehold industry lobbyists have had on communications policy, and put the public’s priorities first. In your own words, you pledged:

  • Protect an Open Internet: To “take a backseat to no one in my commitment to Net Neutrality” and “protect the Internet’s traditional openness to innovation and creativity and ensure that it remains a platform for free speech and innovation that will benefit consumers and our democracy.”
  • Promote Universal, Affordable Broadband: To see that “in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online” by bringing “true broadband to every community in America.”
  • Diversify Media Ownership: To create “the diverse media environment that federal law requires and the country deserves.”
  • Renew Public Media: To foster “the next generation of public media,” and “support the transition of existing public broadcasting entities and help renew their founding vision in the digital world.”
  • Spur Economic Growth: To “strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world” and leverage technology “to grow the economy, create jobs, and solve our country’s most pressing problems.”
  • Ensure Open Government: To reverse “policies that favor the few against the public interest,” close” the revolving door between government and industry,” and achieve “a new level of transparency, accountability and participation for America’s citizens.”

The more than one hundred people who signed onto this letter — and the millions more we represent in our organizations, workplaces and communities — join your call to create a more vibrant and diverse media system and to deliver the benefits of the open Internet and new technology to all Americans.

That is an ambitious and commendable agenda, and one that we all must work hard to pursue. It is very easy for a new administration to get bogged down in competing priorities, particularly in challenging times such as we are enduring today. And it is easy for politicians to abandon principles in the face of opposition or in the name of compromise. That is a pattern that both Obama and the Democratic Party has displayed far too often.

However, despite the obvious severity of our nation’s present condition – economic turmoil, multiple wars, environmental calamity, legal and Constitutional decay, etc. – media reform must remain at the top of the priority list. The solutions to every problem that threatens America’s well being relies on the participation of the people in the process. The media provides the only channel to communicate and educate on a mass scale, and without it there can be no progress. It is, therefore, critical that we shape the media in a fashion that promotes independence, diversity, and respect for openness and honesty.

The Obama agenda, as articulated by him, is a good model for how to proceed. Now he (and we) need to follow through.

Deception And Distrust: The FCC Under Kevin Martin

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce just released a report on the activities of Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin. The report, titled “Deception and Distrust” (PDF) chronicles an agency rife with abuse, manipulation, intimidation, and incompetence. The level of corruption would be shocking if it hadn’t come from the same administration that gave us Alberto Gonzales, Michael Brown, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, etc. The introduction to the report stated that…

This investigation was prompted by allegations to the effect that Chairman Kevin J. Martin has abused FCC procedures by manipulating or suppressing reports, data, and information. Allegations of a broken process at the FCC came from current and former FCC employees, telecommunications industry representatives, and even other commissioners and were often reported in the press.

The report detailed Martin’s attempts to mislead members of Congress by withholding studies that didn’t produce the results he preferred. Then he forced commission staff to rewrite the studies to reverse the findings, even though the data did not support his conclusions. Uncooperative colleagues were dealt with harshly. The result was a collapse of morale in an environment the report calls “a climate of fear.”

Chairman Martin has forced the retirement of senior FCC staff. He has also directed the involuntary transfer of senior staff to lesser positions, often without explanation or notice – a process that was commonly called being “Martinized” or “blue-boxed” – because they disagreed with his policies or agenda…

Under Martin’s dictatorial rule, employees were instructed not to talk to colleagues within the agency without permission. This gag rule was so comprehensive that they were also ordered not to talk to employees at other Federal agencies. Martin further fortified his control by installing a hand-picked Inspector General, Kent Nilsson, who was a close associate, insuring that there would be no independent oversight of his misdeeds. Nilsson himself is alleged to have violated agency procedures repeatedly according to the report.

Kevin Martin is a charter member of the Loyal Order of Bushies. He was on the front lines of the Florida 2000 battle to prevent votes from being counted. His wife Kathie has worked the PR brigade for both Dick Cheney and Bush. For his entire tenure at the FCC, Martin has advocated on behalf of the beleaguered corporations whom he believed were hamstrung by regulations that prevented them from dominating markets and from growing into ever larger monopolies. And now we learn that his administration was modeled on the Stalinist school of management and ethics.

There is a certain irony that this report was released on the same day that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was charged with multiple counts of corruption in office. While Blagojevich’s alleged crimes are thoroughly repulsive, Martin’s crimes are far more serious with longer lasting consequences. Nonetheless, I have not seen a single report about this on any of the television news outlets.

Barack Obama will have an opportunity to replace Martin shortly after his inauguration, and it will not come a moment too soon. But that won’t stop the rantings from rightist outposts who believe that Obama has secret plans to invoke censorship on conservative talk radio. It won’t stop the pro-monopoly lobby from disparaging common sense, and popularly supported, initiatives to bring more local and independent voices into the public square.

The only way to stop these assaults on the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press, is for the people to take seriously the threat posed by multinational media enterprises whose sole allegiance is to their bottom line. And, of course, we also need to address threats posed by the sort of political cronyism that produced Kevin Martin, who did for the FCC what Katrina did for FEMA.

More Fairness Doctrine Stupidity From The Media

Paul Bond, writing for Reuters, has produced an outstanding object lesson in how NOT to write responsible journalism. His article, that has appeared in the Washington Post, the Hollywood Reporter, and many other Reuters affiliates, is filled with novice mistakes – at least I hope they’re mistakes.

Bond’s very first sentence asserts that the end of the Fairness Doctrine…

“pav[ed] the way for talk radio to take the opinionated — and popular — form it has today.”

In fact, talk radio was already opinionated and popular prior to 1987. Its opinions just became less diverse as radio stations consolidated under fewer owners who had their own political agendas to peddle. But Bond contradicts himself a few sentences later saying that reinstating the Doctrine would result in…

“government-mandated programing restrictions that [could] hobble an already struggling industry.”

Make up your mind Paul. Is the industry popular or struggling? In Bond’s second paragraph he asserts that…

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and such influential Democratic senators as Barbara Boxer and Chuck Schumer are pushing for its return, or something like it.”

In fact, while those people have expressed positive opinions of the Doctrine over the years, none of them are “pushing” for its return. There are no bills pending in either house and no recent public comments calling for the Doctrine’s reinstatement. And Bond didn’t bother to contact any of them to find out what their current views are.

Bond’s use of the phrase “something like it,” is vague and unexplained. Most likely he means something he later refers to as “so-called localism.” First of all, the adjective “so-called,” is an editorial device meant to dispute the meaning of localism, and it was inappropriate for Bond to use it. More to the point, localism is a program that calls for the FCC to gather information from consumers, industry, civic organizations, and others on broadcasters’ service to their local communities. It is nothing like the Fairness Doctrine, which requires the holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that is honest, equitable, and balanced.

Then Bond drops this…

“With the year drawing to an end and Barack Obama moving into the White House, talk about the Fairness Doctrine has heated up. Obama likely will name a new FCC chairman and make Democrats a majority on the five-person panel for the first time in eight years.”

Talk about the Fairness Doctrine has only been heating up in conservative circles and on right-wing radio shows. They are hysterically fuming over an action that nobody knowledgeable thinks will occur. Obama himself is on record as opposing its reinstatement. Plus, Bond makes it sound unusual that the new administration would result in a new make-up for the FCC when, in fact, every administration appoints new commissioners that tilt the majority to the President’s party.

Bond isn’t through misrepresenting the situation. His next target is an advisor to Obama on technology issues. Bond says that Obama tapped…

“…Henry Rivera, who was a commissioner in the 1980s when the Fairness Doctrine existed, to oversee the FCC transition process. Rivera is a supporter of bringing back the provisions.

This may be the most egregious example of Bond’s absence of journalistic ethics. He says Rivera was a commissioner in the 1980s when the Fairness Doctrine existed. So what? Rivera was also a commissioner in the 1980s when the Fairness Doctrine expired. The truth is, Rivera was no longer on the panel in 1987 when the Reagan-controlled board let the Doctrine lapse. But he was there in 1985 when the FCC produced the Fairness Report, a study that was the basis for the ruling in 1987. And, once again, Bond offers no proof of the claim that Rivera supports “bringing back the provisions” today. There is no statement from Rivera. Did Bond even try to reach him? Finally, Rivera is not even overseeing the FCC transition process as Bond says. He is on the “Science, Tech, Space and Arts” team. Dale Hatfield is overseeing the FCC group.

As for journalistic balance, Bond quoted five individuals for the article – every one of them vested opponents of the Fairness Doctrine. He also noted that radio executives are arguing against the Doctrine because…

“Shares of such publicly traded radio companies as Salem Communications, Citadel Broadcasting and Cumulus Media are all down more than 90 percent in the past year…”

To me that sounds like an argument in favor of doing something radically different than whatever it is they’ve been doing so far. It certainly doesn’t suggest that anyone should be listening to the radio execs presently in charge.

To be clear, I am not in favor of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. I think it is an anachronism in a media era where so much less of the content distribution occurs on public airwaves. But I am also not in favor of manufactured outrage from disingenuous blabbermouths. And I am not in favor of using innuendo to tarnish positive reforms like localism, market share caps, and effective enforcement of anti-trust law.

And most of all, I am also not in favor of shoddy journalism and hack reporters spreading disinformation to promote their own unscrupulous agendas.