Saturday, April 11, 2009

Edward R. Murrow: Why the Fairness Doctrine Must be Restored

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

The Communications Act of 1934 had affirmed the principle that the 'airwaves' belonged the people. Thanks to GOP/right wing policies, the airwaves have been stolen. 'Public ownership' of the airwaves is under attack by GOP regimes primarily and the large corporations benefiting from so-called 'de-regulation' during the Reagan years. More recent legislation also took its toll. Clear Channel Communications, for example, grew to include some 1200 radio stations as a result of the GOP assault upon fairness.

Formally adopted in 1949, the Fairness Doctrine had required broadcasters to devote air time to the discussion of 'controversial matters of public interest'. To maintain a 'license' broadcasters were required to 'air' opposing and contrasting opinions and viewpoints. Given wide latitude, TV and radio outlets really had little to complain about. Nevertheless, the doctrine was all but repealed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan’s pro-big business FCC.

The doctrine can be traced back to the early days of broadcast regulation. It was the 'teeth' in the federal law that affirmed the public ownership of the 'airwaves'.

Your right to challenge the licenses of abusive outlets is now severely restrained or non-existent. Because there is no real competition, 'big media' can lie to you, slant the news, fill up air time with Billo and bullshit. Big media can jack up the rates on air time and other advertising.

'Fair and balanced'?? I don't think so! What you really get are corporate, focus group approved 'talking points' --not facts! You get Wolf Blitzer cliches and banalities passed off as 'analysis'. You don't get the news; you get right wing propaganda. Millions have been 'brainwashed' and don't even know it.

The Fairness Doctrine had required broadcasters to devote air time to the discussion of 'controversial matters of public interest'. To maintain a 'license' broadcasters were required to 'air' opposing and contrasting opinions and viewpoints. Given wide latitude, TV and radio outlets really had little to complain about.

There is precedent for a 'people's revolution' that will take back our media.


Edward R. Murrow "Wires and Lights In a Box" Remembered
A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a...frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others.... It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount.

--U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969.

Certainly, broadcasting has become subservient to the ruling oligopoly of less than one percent of the population, an oligopoly which spawned it and expects it to serve them --not you, not the public! Public access had been guaranteed by law. It is now restricted or non-existent.
What happened to the American Media? After Nixon's demise, the right wing of the Republican party decided that they could no longer afford to allow the free dissemination of information to the US public. The simple solution? Have their friends buy up the major networks, newspaper chains and magazines, so they could be controlled from the top on the corporate level. The Left's Media Miscalculation was to stand by and watch them do it.
"The American Fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

-- Henry A. Wallace, Vice President to FDR, 1944, The Danger of American Fascism
Having wrested control over the channels of public information, they went on to remove any impediment to their injecting their poisons into the public dialogue. The first step was to get rid of the fairness doctrine.

--Sadbuttrue, What Happened to the American Media?
Certainly the relationship between the American media and the increasingly tiny elite, a 'ruling oligopoly' is entirely too convenient to have come about by chance.
The CIA has always recruited the nation’s elite: millionaire businessmen, Wall Street brokers, members of the national news media, and Ivy League scholars. During World War II, General "Wild Bill" Donovan became chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. Donovan recruited so exclusively from the nation’s rich and powerful that members eventually came to joke that "OSS" stood for "Oh, so social!"

Another early elite was Allen Dulles, who served as Director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961. Dulles was a senior partner at the Wall Street firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, which represented the Rockefeller empire and other mammoth trusts, corporations and cartels. He was also a board member of the J. Henry Schroeder Bank, with offices in Wall Street, London, Zurich and Hamburg. His financial interests across the world would become a conflict of interest when he became head of the CIA. Like Donavan, he would recruit exclusively from society’s elite.

By the 1950s, the CIA had riddled the nation’s businesses, media and universities with tens of thousands of part-time, on-call operatives. Their employment with the agency took a variety of forms, which included:

  • Leaving one's profession to work for the CIA in a formal, official capacity.
  • Staying in one's profession, using the job as cover for CIA activity. This undercover activity could be full-time, part-time, or on-call.
  • Staying in one's profession, occasionally passing along information useful to the CIA.
  • Passing through the revolving door that has always existed between the agency and the business world.
Historically, the CIA and society’s elite have been one and the same people. This means that their interests and goals are one and the same as well. Perhaps the most frequent description of the intelligence community is the "old boy network," where members socialize, talk shop, conduct business and tap each other for favors well outside the formal halls of government.

...


Journalism is a perfect cover for CIA agents. People talk freely to journalists, and few think suspiciously of a journalist aggressively searching for information. Journalists also have power, influence and clout. Not surprisingly, the CIA began a mission in the late 1940s to recruit American journalists on a wide scale, a mission it dubbed Operation MOCKINGBIRD. The agency wanted these journalists not only to relay any sensitive information they discovered, but also to write anti-communist, pro-capitalist propaganda when needed.

The instigators of MOCKINGBIRD were Frank Wisner, Allan Dulles, Richard Helms and Philip Graham. Graham was the husband of Katherine Graham, today’s publisher of the Washington Post. In fact, it was the Post’s ties to the CIA that allowed it to grow so quickly after the war, both in readership and influence. (8)

MOCKINGBIRD was extraordinarily successful. In no time, the agency had recruited at least 25 media organizations to disseminate CIA propaganda.

At least 400 journalists would eventually join the CIA payroll, according to the CIA’s testimony before a stunned Church Committee in 1975. (The committee felt the true number was considerably higher.) The names of those recruited reads like a Who's Who of journalism:
  • Philip and Katharine Graham (Publishers, Washington Post)
  • William Paley (President, CBS)
  • Henry Luce (Publisher, Time and Life magazine)
  • Arthur Hays Sulzberger (Publisher, N.Y. Times)
  • Jerry O'Leary (Washington Star)
  • Hal Hendrix (Pulitzer Prize winner, Miami News)
  • Barry Bingham Sr., (Louisville Courier-Journal)
  • James Copley (Copley News Services)
  • Joseph Harrison (Editor, Christian Science Monitor)
  • C.D. Jackson (Fortune)
  • Walter Pincus (Reporter, Washington Post)
  • ABC
  • NBC
  • Associated Press
  • United Press International
  • Reuters
  • Hearst Newspapers
  • Scripps-Howard
  • Newsweek magazine
  • Mutual Broadcasting System
  • Miami Herald
  • Old Saturday Evening Post
  • New York Herald-Tribune
Perhaps no newspaper is more important to the CIA than the Washington Post, one of the nation’s most right-wing dailies. Its location in the nation’s capitol enables the paper to maintain valuable personal contacts with leading intelligence, political and business figures. Unlike other newspapers, the Post operates its own bureaus around the world, rather than relying on AP wire services. Owner Philip Graham was a military intelligence officer in World War II, and later became close friends with CIA figures like Frank Wisner, Allen Dulles, Desmond FitzGerald and Richard Helms. He inherited the Post by marrying Katherine Graham, whose father owned it.

--Steve Kangas, The Origins of the Overclass
One wonders how many of the more obvious shills have been recruited for their abilities to 'serve' the ruling oligopoly. These 'super-wealthy' have, over the years, consolidated many ways by which they may acquire more wealth and power. By 1912, a year in which the Los Angeles Times building was bombed, the Scripps-Howard organization had already become a media powerhouse with newspapers in many American cities.

By the mid-1970s these methods became a well-oiled, efficient propaganda machine, a Ministry of Bullshit! By 1975 it had became a slick noise machine for advocacy groups, lobbyists, think tanks, conservative foundations, and PR firms. Who benefited? Just one percent of the US population, the 'ruling elite' that profited by the dumbing down of America.

Local markets are served by a limited number of stations, because radio stations are local in reach and licensed to utilize a specific frequency that is assigned by the Federal Communications Commission. A similar system exists for television, cable systems, et al. The communications industries are thus characterized by the Concentration of 'large scale ownership', in other words, 'media consolidation. Most recently, it is reported that only seven major corporations own 99 percent of all media outlets in the United States.

The biggest owners include: Disney, National Amusements, Viacom, CBS Corporation, Time Warner, News Corp, Bertelsmann AG, Sony, General Electric, Vivendi SA, Hearst Corporation, Organizações Globo and Lagardère Group. None of them are 'liberal'. The consequences are measurable.
  • Fewer jobs for media workers
  • More homogenization of music on radio
  • Less community-oriented programming
  • Loss of local control over programming decisions Less independently-produced programming
  • Increased censorship of divergent views
  • Less political discussion
  • Inadequate emergency weather/disaster warnings
  • Fewer minority-owned broadcast stations.
  • The 'brain-washing' of the American public by FOX
  • The media has become the propaganda arm of the GOP
At last --the idea that media is 'liberal' is, therefore, a myth. The handful of large corporations owning the media are 'conservative' --not liberal. In fact, the 'liberal voice' is essentially non-existent in today's monopolistic BIG MEDIA.

The following video featuring Bill Moyer exposes a clear and present danger to dissent and to the very lives of those who dare dissent in the United States. When you watch this video, keep in mind that the ugly hatred, bigotry and venom that is revealed is the result of right wing attacks upon the Fairness Doctrine. Clearly --there is only one reason anyone would oppose 'fairness' and that is that they wish to be 'unfair'; they wish to shout, scream and accuse while muzzling you. They wish to lie while shutting you up. They wish to deny you the right of free speech that had been guaranteed to us in the US Constitution.

Addendum:

9 comments:

Sheilanagig said...

The Internet is next....GUESS WHAT?
These ARE the good old days on this medium. Tha laws already in place are supported by the technology to violate the privacy of each and every citizen, even in their Holy of Holies, the Loo.

Excellent article. I am afraid they just aren't listening - too panicked by the crisis manufactured to make the herd even more managable.

Need a laugh? Albeit cynical?
http://fiddleferme.blogspot.com/2009/04/cows-with-guns-sing-along.html

Cheers for all your effort mate.

AdamS said...

"...keep in mind that the ugly hatred, bigotry and venom that is revealed is the result of right wing attacks upon the Fairness Doctrine."

I don't agree, the venom revealed is the result of a media monopoly of both so-called 'wings', the establishment and the controlled opposition, who trade places every four or eight years.

I don't support any restriction on free speech, this won't solve the problems in the media today. You'll get just as much venom speaking out against Obama as you would against any so-called 'conservative' agenda.

If you don't like it, don't listen. And in fact that's what is happening, more people are ignoring the MSM as a whole as it is so clearly discredited. Getting government to mandate what is 'fair' is questionable at best.

What would the fairness doctrine do to Jeff Rense or Alex Jones? I suspect, if you give government power to decide what is 'fair', you'll see the media most critical of government disappear. Which of course, was not the intention, but I suspect that's how it would turn out.

It sets a precedent that 'this speech is fair, this is unfair and hateful, so we should ban it'. Bad idea IMO.

Len Hart said...

Sheilanagig said...

Cheers for all your effort mate.

Thanks for the encouragement : ) I can assure you, however, it will take more than one of Beck's GOONS to shut me up!

Briefly, the US has fallen upon EVIL times. The nation just might survive this depression but ONLY because other nations like China have to keep us afloat in order to stay afloat themselves. That's the nature of utter corruption. The biggest threat to America, rather, is the rise of MINDLESS HATE as is typified by the likes of Beck, Savage, Limbaugh, Hannity, Colmes, and all their ilk and wannabes.

There is a word for it: EVIL!

Len Hart said...

AdamS said...

I don't support any restriction on free speech, this won't solve the problems in the media today. You'll get just as much venom speaking out against Obama as you would against any so-called 'conservative' agenda.

The 'Restrictions on free speech' argument is a straw man. It was NOT until Reagan began began to dismantle the FAIRNESS DOCTRINE that' media ownership' tried to muzzle me or dictate to me in any way.

To further make the point, I began my career while still in Jr High with TV appearances. Later, as a Freshman, I was both a Top 40 and a 'Classiical Music' DJ. While still High School, I began to cover local news events. Broadcasting made it possible to go to University, where I managed the campus radio station.

Eventually, I would work for networks and major market network affiliates. Point being, while I was learning my craft, I was tutored. But was never dictated to re: content. As a fledgling journalist and as experienced professional, I was NEVER asked to re-write a story so that it might slant facts, spin or otherwise conform to an editorial policy. Unlike, Beck, Billo and BIG BUTTHEAD LIMBAUGH, I was NEVER propagandist or a paid liar.

It is ONLY the concerted attack on the FAIRNESS DOCTRINE that has had the effect, rather, of OPPRESSING freedom of speech and press. And it has most certainly DENIED 'Freedom of Press' by DENYING ACCESS to media. Whereas the FAIRNESS DOCTRINE guaranteed that those who 'owned' the 'airwaves' would have access to them, TRASHING the FAIRNESS DOCTRINE has turned the 'airwaves' into the PRIVATE PRESERVE of Rupert Murdoch wannabes.

That is NOT Freedom of Speech; it is the derogation of it. That is NOT Freedom of Speech, it is a gross parody of it and mocks it.

What would the fairness doctrine do to Jeff Rense or Alex Jones?

Both types flourished under the FAIRNESS DOCTRINE. The difference was that there were LIBERAL talk shows in those days. You won't find them now. They have been SILENCED because the FAIRNESS DOCTRINE was trashed. I DON'T CALL THAT FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

It sets a precedent that 'this speech is fair, this is unfair and hateful, so we should ban it'. Bad idea IMO.

Wrong! Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes said that no one has a right to yell FIRE in a crowded theater. There were ALWAYS restraints on 'free speech' which has NEVER EXTENDED to HATE SPEECH and DOES NOT extend to Glenn Beck's urging that people be murdered because they are 'liberal'.

Nor did 'FREE SPEECH' EVER protect libel, slander, defamation, or the exhortation of crimes violent or otherwise.

Beck has used the PUBLICALLY OWNED airwaves to exhort individuals to break the law. I would love to prosecute Beck's sorry ass myself! Should anyone act upon Beck's 'imperative', Beck may find himself charged with a felony.

Some peopole would limit First Amendment protection even more strictly. For example, some believe that ONLY political speech is protected. Certainly, by that standard, BECK'S exhortation to murder is NOT political, but criminal. To claim that Beck is a 'revolutionary' and, therefore, 'political' is a stretch. Beck did not ADVOCATE a revolutionary overthrow of the current system but merely the MURDER of those who oppose his view of it.

I concur with many who define the First broadly, citing, specifically, the writings of J.S. Mill. They argue that the First must cover even 'speech' that is 'in error'. I agree. But that argument most certainly DOES NOT apply to Beck. Beck's sin was not that he was 'in error' but that he urged the commission of a CAPITAL CRIME.

Yet another view argues that 'freedom of expression' covers or applies to speech that is 'freely chosen by the speaker to persuade others'. I concur. But that DOES NOT describe Beck and others who have urged the MURDERS of those who disagree with them.

In the main --there is ABSOLUTELY NO logical support for Beck, NOR is there ANY LEGAL PRECEDENT in his favor.

We've all known that Beck is totally FUCKED UP. With any luck, he may also be PROSECUTED!

Scott Lofthus said...

I sometimes wonder if all the hate they spew over the airwaves might not have a motive to it. As long as the 2nd Amendment is intact they can not TRUELY control us, but they would never try doing away with themselves as their base would never forgive them but if they incite enough mayhem hopefully the left will do it for them.

I also tend to think there is very little if any difference between repub. and dem. any longer as a comment stated earlier. If there were I think there would be so many investigations of the bush Crime Family that Holder wouldn't have time for anything but?

AdamS said...

Well I agree with you on the state of the MSM, but even though I am far from being an admirer of Beck, I don't think he should be held responsible if someone who listens to him goes nuts and kills someone. (That even goes for Michael Savage, so help me.)

I am somewhat sympathetic to the Fairness Doctrine in situations when the broadcasting space is limited, ie radio/tv. I appreciate that this may improve the quality of MSM news (not as if that's a big acheivement!) They treated Ron Paul like dirt when he was running for Pres.

My concern over the Doctrine is that it will be applied selectively agaisnt the Internet (mainly), harassing unruly bloggers and such. I believe the much more free nature of Internet media means no such Fairness Doctrine should apply online.

Len Hart said...

AdamS sez...

Well I agree with you on the state of the MSM, but even though I am far from being an admirer of Beck, I don't think he should be held responsible if someone who listens to him goes nuts and kills someone. (That even goes for Michael Savage, so help me.)

Well, I completely disagree. John Paul Sartre said: "A man is nothing else but what he makes of himself". Beck, therefore, is JUST as responsible for what he says as are those who ACT upon what he says.

Secondly, as a matter of law, one is RESPONSIBLE for one's speech. I referenced Oliver Wendall's Holmes famous decision in which he stated that there is NO 'free speech' cover for one screaming FIRE in a crowded theater. There is, fact, a body of case law having to do with INCITEMENT alone, as well as 'conspiracies' despite what IDIOTS will tell you about it. A point: CASE LAW COUNTS. It is --in fact --the law.

BECK should be arrested, charged and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

A prosecutor should find it easy to make the case against Beck who MIGHT have been excused had his remarks been taken out of context. They were not! A good prosecutor could convince a jury that Beck's remarks were considered and deliberate. His remarks were INTENDED to cause harm.

Prosecuting BECK assumes, of course, that it is still POSSIBLE to get a jury in a nation that has obviously NEGLECTED education. It may be impossible to prosecute BECK in a nation that seems incapable of distinguishing between education and propaganda, a nation that, not so long ago, mistook Jerry Springer's piece o' crap for 'debate'. If Beck GETS AWAY with inciting murder, my point will have been made.

Scott Lofthus said...

I sometimes wonder if all the hate they spew over the airwaves might not have a motive to it.

Most certainly, it is motivated. My very first employer was a small FM station owned by one person. The station carried a 'right wing' propaganda program on weekends and the owner complained loudly whenever anyone dared to seek 'equal time' to refute the bullshit that had been broadcast. The owners want to be FREE of the rules that apply to everyone; the owners wish NOT to be held to account or made responsible for consequences.

The RULING ELITE in this nation is overwhelmingly right wing and extremist by world standards. They have dominated the media, at least, since 1900 and more so since Reagan 'de-regulated' almost everything.

Their motives are GREED and POWER. Their objective is the brainwashing of the American populace. I believe they have succeeded. I am very familiar with European culture and, based upon that, I am convinced that what passes for 'slightly right of center' in America is the 'extreme right wing' in Europe.

They treated Ron Paul like dirt when he was running for Pres.

Of course 'they' treated Ron Paul like dirt. Although I believe Ron Paul's economics to be simplistic, he was, at last, an independent voice. The ruling elite and 'their' MSM will villify and destroy anyone who is outside a 'mainstream' which they have assumed a power to define. Basically, if you don't own ten or more MAJOR MARKET outlets, your opinion may NEVER get a substantially hearing. Take the Existentialist Cowboy, for example, I once got about 40,000 visitors in one day. A major market broadcast radio station will get many times that number every fifteen minutes. An entire network will reach MILLIONS, perhaps TENS OF MILLIONS and turn them over every quarter hour. This is a market that because the FAIRNESS DOCTRINE has been trashed, the LIBERAL VOICE WILL NEVER REACH. Beck, Limbaugh, Colmes, Hannity et al reach this 'audience' every day. Someone like Ron Paul will NEVER reach that audience.

My concern over the Doctrine is that it will be applied selectively agaisnt the Internet (mainly), harassing unruly bloggers and such.

In that case, it is those responsible for the enforcement of the law to be held responsible for their FAILURE to do so. It is NOT the fault of the law, for example, if a CROOKED AND/OR INCOMPETENT police chief lets criminals get away with murder.

The alternative is even worse, i.e, someone like Google and Microsoft merge and create a 'SUPER NET'. You will PAY (perhaps a subscription like cable) for the privilege of being brainwashed. In that case, the NET will be in DESPERATE NEED of an alternative voice, i.e, a 'fairness doctrine' to ensure that folk like me might still have a blog. A 'super net' just might shut me up!

I worked in major market media before Reagan targeted it for destruction. The media at that time was in many more hands than the mere six or seven corporations that own it today and more and more varied voices were heard. It worked! The alternative is a MISERABLE FAILURE unless you happen to subscribe to the bullshit that is fed us daily by the oligopolists.

Anonymous said...

Dennis Kucinich has repeatedly talked about the Fairness Doctrine and public ownership of the airwaves. The MSM treated him like dirt (albeit alien dirt!) during the Presidential election cycles, too.

Susan J.

Frank Provasek said...

Even without the Fairness Doctrine, progressives can still challenge the renewal of these stations' licenses for failing to serve the "public interest" -- that's ALL of the public -- not just lying to pander to the right wing nuts that are a small minority of the mostly liberal and moderate people of America.