Seeing the Round Corners

November 7, 2016


   Several years back, a candidate in Louisiana with a very “colorful” background in and out of office used as part of his campaign literature a bumper sticker that read “VOTE FOR THE CROOK, IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO.” Just such a bumper sticker would have been such an appropriate addition to the rhetoric espoused this time around and could have been used by both parties. 

   Every Presidential election is touted by the candidates as “the most important one ever.” The 2016 election probably gives new meaning to what can be described as an election season cliché. While it is true that freedom of the press has what most people believe are inherent requirements for presenting an unbiased presentation of whatever is being covered – people or issues, believe it or not, that was the original intention in the early days. That is until mega media owners got control of on-air and print venues.

   Looking back over this year and the coverage by the mainstream stations shows this writer just how biased the media has been in coverage of the Clinton and Trump campaigns. Seldom has the mainstream media shown Trump in an unbiased manner, only painting the man as disrespectful of women . . .  all the while ignoring the Clintons and Bill Clinton’s sleazey reputation for womanizing, and his impeachment by the House of Representatives and the reason for it.

    The Clintons’ War on Women, a book by Roger Stone (and Stefan Moluneux), makes this writer want to throwup. It should have been read by any one planning to vote in this election. (FYI, Stone is the author of best seller, The Man Who Killed Kennedy.) This should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Donald Trump, but merely points out the audacity of the Hillary crowd so obsessed with getting a woman in the White House regardless of HER fitness, an issue Clinton has hammered Trump incessantly on!!

   If you have not voted, please do so. As you do, think about the coverage of the candidates over the past year and ask yourself about the professional and fairness of the coverage. The column from 2007 may be of interest.


Consolidation of broadcasting giants has meant enormously powerful corporations that are virtually uncontrolled, EXCEPT for two things:  their stock and renewal of licenses. As technology evolved, the number of stations broadcasting over the air waves expanded at an exponential rate, with the vast number of stations accounting for what can only be described as “mega competition.”

So, of course, as is the American corporate way, the natural progression was for the larger, more-monied broadcasting corporations to “goble-up” the smaller corporations. The result of consolidation of broadcasting corporations accounts for an extreme decline in competition in every aspect of broadcasting. Consolidation is a major setback for the listening public – control of information broadcast over the publicly-owned airwaves, not only in fairness of both sides of the issues and political candidates, but whether or not a controversial issue is even broadcast to the public.   

The Sinclair Broadcast Group (Sinclair) bit off a little more than it bargained for during the 2004 Presidential campaign. Sinclair, a corporation that controlled more TV licenses than any other corporation at the time, made plans to require its 62 television stations to broadcast the anti-John Kerry documentary, Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal. When word spread, the backlash of such a partisan move by Sinclair resulted in threats of sponsor boycotts, but what ultimately got Sinclair’s attention and caused the corporation to withdraw its directive to air the show was the beating its stock took – a decline of 17 percent. The message Wall Street sent was that Sinclair put politics before profits, a move that was not at all wise.

The furor created by Sinclair’s use of the publicly-owned airwaves for partisan use fueled a renewal of efforts to not only bring back the Fairness Doctrine, but also served to resurrect the  forces on “anti-consolidation” of broadcasting corporations/media groups. Consolidation of broadcasting corporations/media groups into mega-giant organizations took off with the demise of the Fairness Doctrine during the Reagan administration.

The Reagan administration brought strong anti-regulatory extremists to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) who opposed the Fairness Doctrine on the basis that it “violated broadcaster’s First Amendment free speech rights by giving government a measure of editorial control over stations.” The argument was made by the FCC that “rather than increase debate and discussion of controversial issues, the doctrine actually chilled debate because stations feared demands for response time and possible challenge to broadcast licenses.” Responding to the assertions made by the media in the Red Lion case (see last week’s column), Supreme Court Justice Byron White wrote, “There is no sanctuary in the First Amendment for unlimited private censorship operating in a medium not open to all.”

Since the “demise” of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, there is much less coverage of controversial issues of public importance according to a study conducted by the Media Access Project (MAP), a public interest telecommunications law firm dedicated to promoting what they call “the public’s First Amendment right to hear and be heard on the electronic media of today and tomorrow.” The study revealed that “25 percent of broadcast stations no longer offer any local news or public affairs programming at all.”

Why should that be of concern to you the ordinary citizen in the listening audience throughout America? Because consolidation of broadcast stations means fewer people control what you the viewer/listener see and hear over the publicly-owned airwaves. Consolidation has defeated the intent and purpose behind abandoning the Fairness Doctrine – the exact opposite of the so-called goal stated at the time.

Eugene, Oregon is known as a generally progressive town. Disturbed by the lack of a Democratic or liberal perspective being broadcast on the two commercial talk stations in Eugene, resident/lawyer Edward Monks conducted his own study which found “80 hours per week, more than 4,000 hours per year, programmed for Republican and conservative talk shows, without a single second programmed for a Democratic or liberal perspective.” Monks came to this conclusion: “Political opinions expressed on talk radio are approaching the level of uniformity that would normally be achieved only in a totalitarian society. There is nothing fair, balanced or democratic about it.”

New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s latest effort to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine is H.R. 501, The MEDIA Act (Meaningful Expression of Democracy in America), and would apply to United States broadcasters holding licenses from the Federal Communications Commission.” The bill would “ensure that broadcasters present discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.” Care to venture how many millions broadcasting corporations might spend to kill this bill? (Note:  H.R. 501 is classified as a “private bill,” the type of which there are many introduced in Congress. “Private bills in Congress” is worthy of a future column.)

Slaughter explained why the legislation is needed saying, “The Fairness Doctrine was adopted to ensure fair and balanced coverage of all controversial issues by broadcast stations.” In a bipartisan study conducted by Media Matters for America, 77% of those surveyed said “television and radio stations that use public airwaves should be required to present the sides of an issue in a reasonably balanced way – including giving time to opposing points of view.”

Slaughter addressed the power of today’s broadcasters by recalling the failed attempt in 1993 to codify the Fairness Doctrine. At the same time she was working on an amendment to legislation in Congress that would require broadcasters to give free time to the challenger and incumbent in political campaigns, nothing onerous, just broken up into 60-second spots, only to learn years later that “broadcasters spent $11 million lobbying Congress to kill that one amendment.”

The lack of broadcasters presenting competing sides of controversial issues has also prompted United States Senator Diane Feinstein, D-California, to “look at the possibility of reviving the fairness doctrine for United States broadcasters.” Feinstein identified the immigration reform legislation under consideration by the Senate as an example of one-sided presentation of a controversial issue.

Feinstein’s position is that the immigration bill is complicated and is not being given thorough coverage. The silent amnesty already existing in this country is pretty much ignored by the media and there is little emphasis on the flaws of the system. Have you the reader ever seen presentation of what occurs now compared to what would be the policy under the immigration bill now in debate, say in a side-by-side comparison? After all, the less solid, accurate information you the viewer or reader has, the less likely you are to speak out.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, made this statement about why ordinary citizens should be concerned about the Fairness Doctrine: “What has not changed since 1987 is that over-the-air broadcasting remains the most powerful force affecting public opinion, especially on local issues; as public trustees, broadcasters ought to be [i]nsuring that they inform the public, not inflame them. That’s why we need the Fairness Doctrine. It’s not a universal solution. It’s not a substitute for reform or for diversity of ownership. It’s simply a mechanism to address the most extreme kind of broadcast abuse.”

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at