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 Nevertheless, the doctrine was all but repealed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan’s pro-big business FCC.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.

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