Monday, November 27, 2006

How to Reclaim the People's Airwaves? Necessary, but Insufficient

John Nichols, of The Nation, suggests a couple of (safe and popular, but toothless and ultimately probably useless) suggestions for the People to reclaim their airwaves.

The duty to inform the public about the political processes of the Republic, which once was considered the essential responsibility of the recipient of a broadcast license, has been abandoned. The amount of news coverage of state and local elections is in decline, while television stations cede the political discussion to paid advertising...(Even though) local television stations are clearly failing to provide adequate coverage of the most basic functions of democracy, they continue to be the primary source of information for voters. In other words, the great majority of citizens who rely on television news for the healthy diet of information that is needed in order to cast informed votes are being starved by station owners who are more interested in collecting revenues from political advertisers than in meeting the responsibilities of a broadcast license holder.

Of course. This is just the electronic equivalent of Hearst's spurious claim for 'objectivity'. It is far more comfortable for advertizers of NON-POLITICAL fare if the medium itself appears to be non-partisan.

How should citizens respond? There are two necessary actions:
1.) The data gathered by the UW researchers should be employed in broader efforts by citizen groups to challenge the renewal of broadcast licenses for communications
corporations that are failing to serve the communities in which they own stations. These challenges are legitimate and they should be pursued aggressively. For more information, visit
2.) Federal and state legislators should take up proposals to require commercial television and radio stations to provide free air time to all serious candidates as a means to counter the influence of commercials and, hopefully, to energize the news
coverage of campaigns. For more on this, visit the website of the national campaign, endorsed by Walter Chronkite and others, visit and
Necessary, but not sufficient.

What is really needed (and is probably impossible to achieve) is a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting ownership by any individual, corporation, partnership or other entity of more than one broadcast medium outlet in any Congressional District.

I know: naganahapun. But it's as likely as the expedients that Nichols advocates...

1 comment:

Jeffraham Prestonian said...

I'm going to the Gnashvegan FCC hearing next month. I blogged about it, a week or so, back. Litz turned me awn to it.