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Should U.S. bring back the Fairness Doctrine?

Support Bill: Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA)

Originally Introduced by U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, New York Democrat

Originally H.R. Bill 109-3302 (which went nowhere in the previous Congress)

Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA)

Sponsor: Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)

The Media Ownership Reform Act seeks to restore integrity
and diversity to America's media system
by lowering the number of media outlets that one company
is permitted to own in a single market.

The bill also reinstates the Fairness Doctrine
to protect fairness and accuracy in journalism.

Restores Broadcast Ownership Limitations

Nearly 60 years ago, the Supreme Court declared
that "the widest possible dissemination of information
from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public
that a free press is essential to the condition of a free society."

And yet, today, a mere five companies own the broadcast networks,
90 percent of the top 50 cable networks
produce three-quarters of all prime time programming,
and control 70 percent of the prime time television market share.

One-third of America's independently-owned television stations
have vanished since 1975

Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA)

Co-Sponsor: Diane Watson (D-CA)

Since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act,
the number of radio station owners has dropped 34%,
while in almost every market, less than five companies
control over 70% of the market share

Time to Reclaim the Media

But the fight is not over yet. In July 2005
I re-introduced the Media Ownership Reform Act of 2005
with Congressman Maurice Hinchey.
MORA is a broad measure that seeks to undue
the massive consolidation of the media
that has been ongoing for nearly 20 years.

It restores the fairness doctrine,
reinstates a national cap on ownership radio stations,
and lowers the number of radio stations
one company can own in a local market.

It further reinstates the 25% national TV ownership cap,
requires regular public interest reports from broadcasters
and provides for more independently produced programming on television.

The bill establishes new public interest obligations
to ensure broadcasters are meeting the needs of a local community
it is now up to Congress to establish statutory limitations
on media consolidation and provide clear guidance
to the Federal Communications Commission as it initiates
a new rule-making proceeding on media ownership.

as of 2005

Who Owns the Media

The Big 8

Here are a few Charts to illustrate the Media Numbers:

Major Media Owners - 2005 Revenues (in Billions)

Major Media Owners - 2005 Revenues

Makes one think with 3% of the total GNP in their coffers,
Media Companies could afford to hire a few real reporters?
Maybe even staff a real News Division, focused on real News?

Major Media Owners - 2005 TV Stations

Major Media Owners - 2005 TV Stations

Clear Channel Communications Inc. Profile

News Corporation Profile (Rupert Murdoch, Fox News)

America's Leading Media Companies
The Top 20 U.S. Media Owners

Why this matters?
as The Independent in the U.K reported:

Bush 'planted fake news stories on American TV'

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington

Published: 29 May 2006

Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens
of American television stations
for broadcasting items
produced by the Bush administration and major corporations,
and passing them off as normal news.

Some of the fake news segments talked up success
in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies' products.

The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy,
found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations
were making use of the faux news broadcasts,
known as Video News Releases (VNRs).

Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

The range of VNR is wide.

Among items provided by the Bush administration to news stations
was one in which an Iraqi-American in Kansas City
was seen saying "Thank you Bush. Thank you USA"
in response to the 2003 fall of Baghdad.

The footage was actually produced by the State Department,
one of 20 federal agencies that have produced and distributed such items.

I wonder why we haven't heard about these VRNs in the US Media?

Hhmmmmm ????

Originally posted to Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 02:03 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  YES! (9+ / 0-)

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes, yes, yes, yes!

    There was a day when I said I hoped that this was the first action of a democratically held congress.  I still think it should have been in the top five.  But today would be a good day to bring it back.

    "2009" The end of an error

    by sheddhead on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 02:05:37 PM PDT

  •  The ownership thing is very important. (8+ / 0-)

    If I had to choose between the fairness doctrine and ownership reform, I would go with ownership reform every time.  Radio stations, television stations, and even newspapers are held in these corporate conglomerates that are literally killing free speech and diversity of opinion.  We must reinstate the rules for ownership and it has got to be "real" not full of loop holes that would allow this situation to continue.

    •  what bothers me about concentrated ownership (5+ / 0-)

      the syndication of the same old story's
      across the organization

      the lack of true investigative reporting,
      instead just recycle someone else's report,
      or someone's Press Release, as if they were News

      The ever growing slant for entertainment-based stories,
      with a focus on the gossip celebrity angle, instead of the underlying issues.

      And the "bigfooting" or non-stop coverage of the "hot story of the day" --
      to the exclusion of most other important current News.

      (example: Imus Story "bigfooted" the RNC Email story, last week)

      (example: VA Tech Story "bigfooted" the Gonzales Senate Hearing story, this week)

      •   what bothers me about concentrated ownership (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ibonewits, jamess

        Yes, you're right.  But by focusing on the big picture -- to wit, large corporate interests -- you are missing the smaller picture of places like where I currently live.  We have two daily papers, both owned by the same family.  This family also owns the local TV station and several radio stations (sorry; I've forgotten how many).  So:  yeah, Clearchannel is in here, but really it's the local GOP family that controls access to the news.  I am lucky:  I live close enough to real cities to actually be able to purchase the NYTimes (Washington edition), Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, etc.  Because of this, our right-leaning media family must compete; hence, they include a few sops to us left-wingers.

        But make no mistake:  If this market existed farther from real cities, this GOP media-centric family would give us, basically, Fox Mews-inspired gossip.  There is no goodness in their hearts; it's just that there's news competition here, based on lucky geography.

        So I agree that corporate ownership of all news venues is bad.  But please, when you protest this, include privately-owned locks on news in smaller markets.  Were it not for a quirk of geography, people here who are not as computer-literate as I am would be reading the local papers only --they would have no other choice -- with no recourse for a broader perspective.

        •  thanks for point out this drastic impact (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          thanks for point out this drastic impact that media consolidation
          is having on smaller local media markets.

          Sounds like the smaller local markets may be the "canaries in the coalmine" for this issue.

          They may be place to begin further in depth studies?
          Indeed such studies may have already been done?

          BTW, I'm not really in the "protest business".
          My goal is to raise awareness of this very important issue.
          And to point to legislative actions, that may be trying to fix it.

      •  Just a start.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KingOneEye, jamess

        This legislation would be a good start on untangling the mediag conglomerates, but we need to remember that it is just a start.  

        Comprehensive media ownership reform must also tackle the concentration of ownership in the cable industry, and not just broadcast media.  It would also need to undo the "vertical integration" that has occurred in the past 15 years by restoring what used to be referred to as "fin-syn", which were the regulations that prohibited the broadcast networks from being commonly owned with production studios and syndication companies.  

        Finally, as has been noted by others, regulation is needed on issues other than ownership.  Aside from the Fairness Doctrine, one place I'd take a long hard look is so-called "intellectual property" law, which has become way too tilted in favor of big media companies.  

        Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

        by TexasTom on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 08:14:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'll get right on it (0+ / 0-)

          break up cable monopoly power, Check!

          break up the broadcast-syndication-studio system, Check!

          roll back the perpetual lock-ins on Intellect Property Rights, Check!

          One Request please can you give me a few extra weeks?
          I'll get back with ya, soon as we knock these out!

          (LOL, just kidding!)

          very good points you raise, all of them.


    •  The internet (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      inclusiveheart, Brecht, jamess

      don't forget a lot of those company also own massive number of "internet cable".

      TV is on the way out, albeit still big. But somebody has to make sure internet remains open for everybody.

      •  Internet consolidation (and ownership) is Urgent (0+ / 0-)

        in the Big 8 web page

        if you click on the Category Labeled: Internet
        in each of the Media Sub banners (staring with Time Warner) on that page

        you can see the same consolidation trends happening with Internet companies too.

        And where will we be, when the Internet becomes as regulated and closed off
        as the TV News industry has?  That's Indeed a scary thought!  Welcome to China, everybody!

        Note: I charted out the TV Ownership Pie Graph, because
        it was one of the simpler ones to put together, and
        because it should be very relevant to most who critique "the MSM machine."

    •  no reason not to use the fairness doctrine (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      as something of a cudgel to promote the idea of ownership reform.  I don't think bush would sign it, but it's worth passing the Congress and getting him on record. It has no downside that I can see.

      A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

      by dougymi on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 03:19:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    When is the vote on this? I consider this the most important legislation needing passage.

    I'm not ready to make nice... (Dixie Chicks)

    by grrr on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 02:51:52 PM PDT

    •  I'm not sure of the current status (0+ / 0-)

      I'm not sure of the current status of this Bill ???

      if was originally H.R. Bill 109-3302
      (but went nowhere in the previous Congress, the 109th)

      Today, I saw this recent story in Google News:

      which made it look like U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, New York Democrat,
      was calling for re-newed action on this Bill, within the current Congress, the 100th. ???

      Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) still has MORA Bill prominently displayed on his web site:

      Let's hope someone picks up the rally cry here once again.
      It's time to break up the Mass Media log-jams, their message filtering and
      agenda-setting lock-step Editorial Policies (for the sake of ratings)

      Let's make the Free Press, free again!

  •  Media Businesses Are True Modern Robber Barons (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht, jamess

    Media ownership reform is an absolutely essential start, but I don't think it addresses the core problem.

    The original robber barons were European lords whose castles taxed and regulated river traffic.

    The core traffic of the information age being information, it's the owners of our all-private-property information infrastructure who wear the mantle of Robber Barons in our time.

    The problem was not solved by ownership regulation of Robber Barons and highwaymen and high seas privateers, preventing them from accumulating too much market share.

    The problem was solved by a quantum leap in property right concept, recognizing that society required a vast public commons for transportation of goods, services and information that could not be claimed and operated as private property by anyone. Those who tried to do so were proclaimed "pirates" and prosecuted as criminals.

    Clearly the press business is protected by the 1st ammendment. But so is the right to own "arms" by the 2nd. Yet we recognize the need to progressively limit and curtail that right as weapons grow in power beyond anything the framers could have conceived, with the ability to target masses of people over distance and time.

    Beyond media ownership reform we need to recognize a fundamental need for free or trivial-cost nonprofit communication to society on a constant basis, not just during election campaigns.

    No snappy answers here but we're never going to have much of a role for the people so long as the discussion is merely which and how many lords own and operate the common reality we share.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 04:16:54 PM PDT

    •  you raise some good points (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      you raise some good points:

      about "the property right concept" as it applies to information.

      and the need for a "quantum leap in property right concept"

      This is indeed an over-riding issue, that rides the rails of the information highway,
      no matter who built, or now holds the lease to the railways.

      Google probably more than anything, has enabled the "great democratization of information" that we have all benefited from in the last decade.

      I dread to think, what would happen to "this cultural freedom of information"
      if toll booths were installed, to regulate passage of each idea that crosses over the rails.

      as bad as that thought is, a bigger issue that I worry about though is:

      For many, especially for those not internet savy, the Media IS their source of info on the World!

      The Media tells the great masses of viewers, what to think, and what's important, and what is not.

      It is the lack of "critical thinking", and the general "dumbing down" of society,
      that allows the "Robber Barons" to continue to get away with their priateering.

      I saw it on TV -- SO it must be true!

      (Just watch a few of Jay Leno's segments that he calls Jay Walking,
      if you need any evidence of how much the "value of information" among society at large, has been deflated)

  •  Loss of the Fairness Doctrine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    gave us the constant noise machine of the Rush Limbaughs and others who paved the way to the whole Bush administration fiasco. America hasn't had a free press during the entire development of our youngest adult generation, those who are most likely to be paying in blood in Iraq.

    Yes, this is long, long overdue. I worked as a reporter and saw up close and personal the inner workings of destroying genuine news coverage. When a small-town newspaper, circulation only 7,000, becomes a tool for the corporate wizards, that's it. It happened here; it's happened throughout the country, not just in major markets.

    Horrific loss.

    •  thanks so much for your unique insights (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I wish more reporters would speak out.

      "True Journalists" must cring when they see what is happening
      to their choosen profession, presumedly one the love and believe in.

      What they did to Dan Rather a few years ago was atrosis!
      Who could have imagined the "swift boating" of such a respected Journalist,
      is such a short period of time?

      Spin is what matters most these days.
      Now that's scarey!

  •  Check out this book (0+ / 0-)

    Reading it now on this very issue. Pick it up if you can.

    I'll be interviewing the author in the next couple weeks. I'm looking forward to it and I'm sure I'll post it up on dKos for all to read.

  •  for those wondering what's the Fairness Doctrine? (0+ / 0-)

    Fairness Doctrine:

    the way I understand it, at least how it used to work,
    until Reagan's FCC, canceled the policy/law,
    is that News Agencies if they decided to air a Political Opinion from one side,
    must also give "free air time" to allow
    the other side to give a "rebuttal statement".

    This same standard also applied to Political Attacks on a Candidate,
    in that the Candidate must be notified they were attacked,
    and then given a "free air time" to respond to the attack.

    So it's not about Censorship so much as providing "both sides" of a story, or issue.
    ("fair and balanced" one might say)

    Also I think the original Fairness Law, required of each TV station,
    as a condition keeping their FCC License, that a certain percentage
    of their "air time" (like 1-2%) had to be used in the form of
    "public service" programming to their local community.  

    Often this "public service" time was filled by interviews with Candidates,
    Candidate Debates, or with Townhall Meetings of citizens and community leaders
    to debate local problems and discuss solutions.

    But apparently sometime in the 80's someone in govt,
    decided that unfeddered corporate profits was much more important
    than promoting the "public good" of the local community.

    We now all see how well the shift in priorities has worked out.

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