Television news has taken criticism from every direction imaginable. It is accused of being too far left, or too far right, or too shallow, or too consumed with profit, etc.
Now the Federal Communications Commission has settled the argument. Television news is too newsy. The FCC's latest satire-defying ruling has declared that the gossip-mongers at TMZ, and the God-casters at Pat Robertson's 700 Club, are "bona fide" news providers. In arriving at that ruling, the Commissioners had to conclude that there would be no overt political partisanship in the news content from these parties.
The significance of this ruling is that the broadcast licensees of these programs will not have to comply with political equal-time requirements. In the case of TMZ, the licensees are the stations in the Fox Television Station group owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The 700 Club, of course, is openly partisan and is controlled and hosted by a former Republican candidate for president. So obviously the FCC found that there was no risk of political favoritism from these notorious right-wing entities.
Perhaps the most embarrassing revelation in this story is that the FCC justified the ruling by citing Entertainment Tonight as a precedent. Apparently the standard for newscaster bona fides is that they cover:
"...some area of current events, in a manner similar to more traditional newscasts."
More traditional newscasts like Entertainment Tonight? This is the modern media measure for newsworthiness. And this why the legacy news networks have all taken to emulating ET. It is why Lindsay Lohan leads the evening news broadcast even when soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq. It is why Rev. Wright dominates the news cycle even when the economy falters and thousands of Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure.
It may seem ludicrous that the FCC would grant newscaster status to TMZ and the 700 Club, but the real joke is that, by contemporary standards, they deserve it.