Thursday, October 15, 2009

Our Media Need a Fair and Balanced Doctrine

By Brad Friedman, Commonweal Institute. Posted October 14, 2009.

Without freedom of the airwaves, there is no freedom of the press.

Just minutes after noon, on January 20, 2009, "hope" arrived for Constitutionalists and supporters of its First Amendment. A slight, little-noticed, but exceedingly noteworthy paragraph appeared on the new Administration's White House website "Technology" page.

"Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media," the paragraph began, "promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum."

After more than a decade of private corporatization of virtually every inch of bandwidth across the public airwaves, a new day seemed to be dawning with a new Administration's indication that they might reverse years of cynical, self-serving mismanagement of the people's airwaves by a few, very large, very far-right leaning corporations who had been granted priceless government largesse in the form of broadcast licenses without the responsibility of serving the public interest in exchange.

"Hope" would be short lived. By summer, the paragraph had been quietly excised from the White House website without a trace, apology or even an explanation.

The rightwing-dominated media's War Against Restoration of the Fairness Doctrine had been won before those who might have joined the battle were even aware there had been a first skirmish.

For months following Obama's election, the rightwing media had used the public airwaves to combat what they had contended was a devious "Liberal plan" to stifle "conservative" opinion on them. The Democrats, we were told, had planned to remove voices such as Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Savage and the nearly endless cadre of rightwing Republicanists from the airwaves. Never mind there was never any such plan, no matter how much progressives might have liked to bring back diversity of opinion -- fairness and balance, if you will -- to the public's airwaves.

A fair and balanced discussion of unfair and unbalanced rightwing corporate domination of the media is difficult to wage across a rightwing corporate-dominated media. So, it seems, the new stewards of the public's own airwaves -- the Executive Branch -- decided it was largely easier to quit than to fight. Once again, the only industry specifically recognized by explicit guarantees in the U.S. Constitution would go unprotected again. The corporate masters of that industry would have free reign, while the values meant to be protected by our founders would continue to disappear, nearly as quickly as a paragraph on Obama's White House website.

Freedom of the press would continue instead as freedom for America's wealthiest corporations to dominate it to their own self-serving advantage, for the foreseeable future.

Con't -

"Hello to our friends and fans in domestic surveillance."

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