Corporate Media pundits and sell-out Democratic personalities are denouncing a return to the Fairness Doctrine standards in broadcasting eliminated by the Reagan Administration. They are falling into a trap set by the Republican Right and the largest corporations in America. Essentially, they are letting Republican political spin set the agenda for “acceptable” political views.
Grassroots Democratic activists do want a return to the Fairness Doctrine and Equal Time provisions in broadcasting. Private business owners are using without charge the public airwaves. These businesses are making huge profits by using public assets that belong to all American citizens. They owe us a public obligation to present diverse opinions and provide balanced public programming.
Using public property for private profit comes with strings. Private profits are only acceptable if the overall policy serves the public good. Our government policy cannot be based solely on making the highest level of profit for the private businesses involved in broadcasting.
Broadcasters who do not give all major viewpoints a voice on their segment of the public airwaves should lose their licenses. This was the situation before the corporatist radicals surrounding Ronald Reagan rigged the system by gutting almost all the public service regulations previously in effect. We need to return to our traditional, pre-Reagan standards.
It is unfortunate that the Corporate Media wants to take support for the Fairness Doctrine off the table for the political leadership of both major Parties. It is really a fool’s errand. The grassroots of the Democratic Party strongly support the Fairness Doctrine and will demand that our candidates support it in 2008.
The Corporate Media attacks on the Fairness Doctrine are creating a backlash. Activists now will not stop at a return of the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting. Centralized media control is now widely seen as a serious threat to our democratic institutions by most reformers. We need a complete change of direction when it comes to regulating broadcasting.
We need to limit radio station ownership to no more than 20 stations. We should encourage local ownership and minority ownership. Ownership of major city newspapers, radio stations and television stations in the same market should be prohibited.
Democrats should join with other reformers to make our public airwaves actually serve the public interest. Centralized media ownership curtails competition. It lowers the quality of programming. It promotes the possibility of politicization of programming. It drives up advertising costs. It hurts content diversity. It is broken and needs fixed! Democratic politicians who side with the large media corporations instead of the grassroots activists are going to have serious future political problems.
Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com).