I posted up a diary on this earlier in the week. You can find it here:
On that diary, the split on support for the idea of returning to a doctrine was interesting. A majority do not support a doctrine, but it's close with undecideds running about 16 percent! It really could go either way, depending on where people end up on the topic.
When I saw the unexpected split, I put out the call for pro-doctrine comments, with the goal of continuing the discussion.
More after the jump!
The most compelling pro-doctrine point made is about the very high number of conservative broadcasts on radio, compared to progressive and independent ones. (And no, I don't count O'Reilly as real indy.) The crux of the matter comes down to the question of how we keep the momentum for progress going when we've got this horrible framing going on 24 / 7.
This is a fair question, and one that I totally think we need to get behind and address sooner rather than later. I've spent the week after the election, just watching, reading and listening to a variety of programs, many of which I don't normally pay any attention to, looking for core framing and to see who gets it, and who doesn't, even if I don't agree.
The result of this activity isn't pretty. There is a lot of work being done right now to establish negative framing and to marginalize the social mandate Obama and Progressives have right now. It's clear to me that framing will be used to build questionable narratives in the near future, and that's all out of the conservative playbook, 1, 2, 3.
On one hand, I really don't blame them. What option do they have? They could actually reconsider their core positions and their tolerance for bigots, theocrats, racists and such. But then, that would also mean owning up to having given them a platform in the first place, and we all know that isn't gonna happen. That would actually require these types to admit they have it wrong, and given the positive movement toward progressive ideas right now, would more or less kill off what party strength they have left.
So, it's all about affirmation for the 23 percenters (bigots, theocrats, pro-lifers, and others with an axe to grind), while at the same time pushing any position they can to reinforce the idea that the referendum we saw isn't on the free market, but on specific people who fucked it up, and the blame game is game on!
So, what does this have to do with the doctrine then?
Glad you asked. (and if you didn't, let's talk about it anyway)
The core of the problem surrounds the imbalance between traditional media airing a lot more of this programming, along with a clear corporate bias, and progressive, populist ideas. On the Internet, these are not really an issue, given we maintain a neutral net. On the traditional media, it's a mess and the pro-doctrine people have a solid point; namely, these broadcasts in such high numbers creates a false perception of acceptance of these views that is far greater than there actually is!
If acceptance were that high, we simply would not have seen the election we did.
Additionally, expectations for this up and coming administration are running pretty high. If Obama can't deliver, then the framing being laid down right now, will come home to haunt the Democratic party in the future and we won't see the kinds of gains the people have asked for, and an ugly cycle continues.
My problem with the doctrine boils down to not seeing how creating one would address this. To recap:
We've got media ownership problems. Too many venues are owned by too few. That's inhibiting the normally more robust competition between programming forms and ideologies. This is the primary reason why progressive / liberal / independent talk isn't growing at the rate it should.
Why not focus on that then? It's not like the two are exclusive, or bound together. It's completely possible to make a strong case for less media ownership consolidation, without having to also tie a new fairness doctrine to it.
The media ownership issue is a winner, even outside the realm of political programming. Music and general entertainment programming suffers from this problem, and awareness of that runs fairly high among ordinary people. It's easy to see the framing being that Democrats are trying to free media and bring better programming to everybody, instead of being the party that helped kill media off, with enforced fairness legislation.
The compelling nature of news / entertainment is out of the bag. Bias is not a bad thing, advocacy is not a bad thing and people have seen that and they like that. If we legislate some fairness, we might get rid of Limbaugh, or at the least counter that a bit, but we lose Olbermann and others like him as well. Mandated airtime requirements will cost money, and dilute strong branding and make offerings less compelling.
How many people prefer "The News Hour" to "The Daily Show", or Maddow, for example? If we did some digging, I think we would find the younger people are, the more they prefer the latter, not the former. I know I'm in the camp, and "The News Hour" is a good program! It's also not very entertaining, unless you are a serious news junkie.
Most people aren't.
Dealing with ownership and market rules can and will open up more of the traditional media to competition. Where those doors are open, there are people who will step through them and compete for their share of the media dollars.
And that's the poll for today. Where do you stand on media ownership? Should we break them up, leave them alone, or don't know?
The framers clearly intended for us to be able to speak freely to the maximum extent possible. We don't regulate speech, unless doing so would address a direct harm. Not liking a particular mode of speech isn't good enough. As much as I don't believe we are being well served by the current imbalance between progressive oriented media and conservative oriented media, I don't think we can legislate the "bad" programming away, without seriously impacting "good" media with a tool like the fairness doctrine.
The problem becomes then, "what is fair?". Do we assign a committee, what are the legal tests, who qualifies them, are minority views included, and it goes on and on and on.
This isn't something we can just pass the "level the playing field law" to fix, because the motivation to chill speech we don't like runs high with all of us, meaning if we start down that road, a lot of valid speech will be chilled.
The framers wouldn't go along with that, and neither should we.
Addressing the balance of ownership to encourage more vibrant competition let's us decide what is fair and what is not in the market place of ideas, while giving everybody a fair shot at actually being heard. Working on media consolidation, while preserving net-neutrality is the way forward to that, not going backward to a fairness doctrine where the SCOTUS has already ruled that, if such a doctrine chills speech, it will be struck down.
(and they are right on that too)
It's fair to identify the problem; namely, a lot of media broadcasts working to marginalize the democratic speech of the American people. It's also fair to want to fix that, but what I have not seen is it being demonstrated that a return to the fairness doctrine being possible without also chilling a lot of valid speech along with the hate / unhealthy speech.
Given this, and also given the assumption that a fairness doctrine would not survive court review, what other solutions should be on the table, along with media consolidation reform and reinforcement of a neutral Internet policy?