The problem with justice in America is…people are unaware the news has been jacked. People who work too hard, come home, attend to family needs, then relax.
They relax by watching a game on TV, or in my case, The Good Wife. At some point people are just too tired to learn. So they depend on the news to keep them informed.
Initially, it wasn’t a terrible idea. But that was then and this is now. So, warning:
Depending on the News Media for Accurate Information – is a bad idea
Ever since schools dropped basic Civics classes, most people really don’t know how government actually, works. Including when they most need to. Such as:
- 1. Most people know they can be charged with a crime if they lie to the police.
- 2. Most people don’t know it is perfectly legal for the police to lie to people, during the course of their investigations. (Charmingly referred to as, “An investigative technique.”)
But, I digress.
Since the views of most people following criminal matters are based on what is reported, reporting lacking the heft of the Fairness Doctrine, signals a big problem.
The Fairness Doctrine:
The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission’s view, honest, equitable and balanced.
Also, radio and television stations were required to set aside thirty minutes a day to present programs in the public interest, in order to keep their license. (Stations got around this somewhat by broadcasting these programs when most people were asleep.)
Now for the bad news
The Fairness Doctrine was repealed by the FCC in a 4-0 vote in 1987; about the same time Television station owners were allowed to buy newspapers. So the plan was for rich corporations to change how news was reported and turn reality upside down. It worked.
Also, news departments now had to generate income. Which explains how news “reports” began to feature those corporations spending big time advertising dollars…and lagging behind when they screwed up.
(This explains why it took so long for say, defective car recalls, to hit the media.)
Add to this toxic mix; the changing of the phrase “in the public interest.”
Anyone remember the last time they watched a thirty minute program regarding the “public interest” or saw even a 30 second Public Service Announcement?
The FCC also changed “in the public interest” to mean “matters in which the public expresses an interest.”
In my area, the local CBS affiliate deemed football games were matters in which the public was interested. So broadcasting football games fulfilled their public interest requirement to keep their FCC license.
Then, in a crazy Fox News kind of way – Janke Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson, both Fox Producers, were fired for trying to present both sides of a news segment. (I found this at Daily Kos and edited because their page was jiggy.)
In December 1996, Fox hired Jane Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson, as “Investigators” a Tampa Bay, “team” in Florida. One of their assignments was to investigate bovine growth hormone (BGH), the controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto Corporation.
Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. Fox editors then tried to force Akre and Wilson to continue to produce the distorted story.
Akre and Wilson refused and threatened to report Fox’s actions to the FCC.
Both were fired. They sued and won. Fox appealed. Fox won.
In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.
Yep. FOX claimed there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. FOX, being foreign owned, might not be clear on the concept of fairness. After all, the second largest FOX stockholder is a Saudi Prince.
Anyway as reported by Daily Kos, FOX lawyers argued under the First Amendment, that broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves.
The Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a “law, rule, or regulation,” it was simply a “policy.” Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.
During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so.
Part of the issue, is people. People who have no idea any this is going on. If you’d like to change that so news is real, and not just politics, please write to Tom Wheeler. He’s head of the FCC now.
You can reach Tom by email: Tom.Wheeler@fcc.gov
I encourage you to write Tom, and be a part of the solution.
Doing so will produce a better America. And one last thing. Send this to your friends.