Sunday, June 12, 2005

Fairness Doctrine: Barometer of Bias?

Hey everyone. If you've visited the website recently, you may have noticed we've been busy, so we've got a bit of catching up to do around these parts.

I've been searching for a good, balanced piece on the Fairness Doctrine that Rep Louise Slaughter (D-NY) is proposing. By Slaughter's description, efforts to restore the Fairness Doctrine are intended "to hold broadcasting companies accountable to their public interest obligations by requiring equal air time for opposing viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance."

It's not a new idea. In 1971 the FCC introduced regulations that "ran parallel with Section 315 of the Communications Act of 1937 which required stations to offer 'equal opportunity' to all legally qualified political candidates for any office if they had allowed any person running in that office to use the station." In the 1980'sThe Reagan administration worked to put the doctrine to bed, and in 1987 the FCC dissolved it altogether. (Val Limburg's piece, available here is the best independent resource I've found on the Doctrine).

Okay, so that's the idea. Now, there have been allegations for quite some time now, that there is a "liberal bias" in media, though the claim is, of course, disputed by many who suggest that bias skews the other way. Frankly, I'm not sure who to believe, since strong cases can be made to support either contention. I will say that I'm comfortable asserting that strong biases in media reports can be cited both ends of the political spectrum--biases nobody will apologize for because of the abundance of support that can be made for such slanted views to create "balance."

So research and popular opinion goes both ways on the matter, but we probably agree that the difference in biases from both sides are not likely equal, and one side gets a little more love than the other, if we could weigh the total liberal/conservative biases against each other and see what's left. It's a quantitative nightmare, though people much smarter than me can demonstrate otherwise.

This is where I like what the introduction of this bill finds for us. Both sides can SAY they need better representation from media outlets, but when you throw down a doctrine that regulates it, who thinks they're better off under the current system than with regulated "balance" on issues? Here's where we get clarity: Conservatives. Liberals are thirsting for the Doctrine like dirt on Bush, and conservatives want it like legal abortion. It's been asserted that the conservative edge pertaining to media come from media consolidation and corporate control, and are most protective of right-wing radio programming.

If there is in fact a "liberal" bias in media, why aren't conservatives clamoring for an equalizing force?

For all the research and all of the debate on media biases, throwing down a gauntlet like this may be our best meter to determine who's got the strongest grip on media messages today.


Blogger Karl said...

Thanks for posting this important information! Anything you can do to broaden the discussion on media bias is greatly appreciated. It isn't about them vs. us or us vs. them. It is about holding the media accountable to the public.

Louise Slaughter's Office

6/22/2005 11:06 AM  
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