Media fairness has become a "hot button issue!"
It is also an extremely complicated issue. Primarily because much of today's media is "for pay."
In "E" is for English, I proposed a "media fairness board" which would determine if a certain media slant would constitute bias. Later, I pondered over the question, "how would you do this?"
The 1st Amendment is where it begins. Which translates to "no censorship." That's the law; as it should be! No matter what we may think about an opposing opinion, that person or organization rending that opinion has the constitutional right of free speech.
People often forget that much of our media is for pay. CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, One America News, News Max all will cost you a few pennies per month as part of a Cable T.V. package.
Viewers may not like Morning Joe, Chris Mathews or Don Lemon any more than they like Sean Hannity, Heath Ledger or Laura Ingram! But because they paid for the programming, there is no recourse for bias, other than not buying.
Same holds true for Newspapers and Magazines. If there is even the smallest purchase price, access is for compensation.
The rub comes with the "over the air" broadcast vehicles. Namely, the networks. In about 30% of America's homes, there is no cable TV. "Free" stations that can be accessed by simply having a television, are the options.
Why is this relevant?
As an industry, Broadcasting has not been with us for a century. At inception is was a curious new entity that could reach masses instantly, simultaneously. Soon there was a mad scramble for frequencies. By the mid- 1920's, the airwaves were becoming endless static from too many people trying to broadcast.
In 1927 Congress passed The Radio Act, which required licensing of a frequency. The Federal Radio Commission, which initially oversaw the Radio Act, later gave way to the Federal Communications Commission seven years later.
Most of the rest is history. The original act did not allow censorship. Programming could not include "obscene, indecent or profane," language. I recall as a boy watching public service announcements detailing "the Television code."
In the late 1930's New Dealers were successful in implementing "the Fairness Doctrine." This was later abolished because it proved to be a method of censoring paid sponsors that otherwise complied to the "code."
The sixties roared in with the Kennedy-Nixon debate and later with graphic footage of the Viet Nam conflict. America became better informed. In many cases the results were not welcomed.
I recall watching the 1980 Republican primary, only because I was hospitalized while recovering from an automobile accident. Mississippi Baptist Medical Center had only ABC, NBC and CBS. All three networks were covering the convention, non-stop. If you weren't interested, you were simply out of luck!
All of them were there: Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Sam Donaldson and the big names of the time. Subtle was their assessment of Ronald Reagan and what was dubbed, "The Reagan Revolution." The message that I seemed to get from all was that Reagan's ideas, while curious, were neither feasible or practical.
The decade closed with bumper stickers mildly touting a perceived bias toward the left. The bumper sticker most remembered was "Rather Biased."
The 1990's will be remembered as a time when millions of over the air viewers departed the networks in favor of cable news. Fox News immediately set themselves apart as the "only true conservative voice." It attracted millions of news viewers with this positioning statement. Meanwhile, CNN lost it's lead in the Cable News world.
By the middle of the last decade, an astonishing number of Americans had left network news altogether, disgusted with perceived bias.
Today, it a fair statement to say that CBS, ABC and NBC are at best, "left leaning." Dangerous is when 30% of the American population only has access to these sources for their national news.
The original 1927 act stated that the "airwaves belong to the people." That could be interpreted that they can exhibit no political bias. The question becomes "where" you draw the line between "prohibiting bias" and "facilitating censorship?"
There is no easy answer!
I recall the oath that took in joining Sigma Delta Chi(The Society of Professional Journalists). It specified "serving the public in a measured, responsible and unbiased manner."
Today's mainstream media advocates "Globalism." This is an opinion. The MSM positions it as an axiom, essentially the norm in a world growing more interconnected.
Do they have the right to do this? Actually, no! Unless they fairly illustrate the alternative: "Nationalism."
Same holds true for "faith based" versus "Secularism."
The airwaves belong to the people, under original and existing law. All, of the people.
How do you police this? Or, CAN you even police it?
I don't think we can NOT police it.
Nineteen(19) non-partisan media veterans would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. They would swear an oath to defend the standard specified by Sigma Delta Chi. It would apply only to the broadcast networks.
Local affiliates would be exempted; unless they owned more than a total of seven television properties, seven a.m. and seven f.m. stations. This condition would greatly anger media giants such as Clear Channel Communication and Sinclair Broadcasting.
First citation, the offender would be given a warning. Second offense, their license would be revoked and sold to the highest bidder. For stockholders, this would amount to nothing short of a "financial holocaust." The stock would be worth only what the real estate was worth. Many would be out of work, with no recourse.
Hot hardly! These media "elites" are effectively influencing millions to one way of thinking. There is nothing wrong with information. But, it must be made available in a fair and balanced manner.
We cannot place one opinion above another, when the airwaves belong to all of us.