June 17, 2004

Is There A Fact-Checker In The House?

Stefan Sharkansky has taken issue with the WA State Democratic platform, and among a number of glaring misrepresentations, I'd like to point up the media issues.

Government control of the media:

the public owns the broadcast airwaves and the Internet, which should be managed to serve the public interest.

...If foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, what is foolish inconsistency?

A symptom of being a Democrat, apparently. Another example of this is that the Democrats believe in "affirmative action" and

using diversity of ownership as the centermost principle of broadcast licensing;

[ you know what "diversity" is code for]...

Neither of these two planks are intended as presented above.

First, public ownership of the airwaves. The public already owns the airwaves, as established by the basic operating premise of the FCC. Private broadcasters must even now purchase licenses from the government to take up broadcast bandwidth, and demonstrate that they're acting in the public interest. This last requirement has fallen into disfavor, but it was the original intent. No one is advocating that networks be directly managed by the FCC.

Managing in the public interest includes such things as regulating the morality content of broadcast media, something that conservatives (though not all of them) are generally in favor of. It formerly included the fairness doctrine, and many other decisions about what is allowable behavior over public airwaves. The merits of many individual decisions could be attacked at length, but they do not constitute direct control of the media. Someone needs to set guidelines for everyone to play by, and the intent of this plank is to express a desire that those guidelines favor citizens over narrow corporate interests.

Secondly, the 'diversity' in diversity of ownership has nothing to do with affirmative action as implied by the post. It refers to the percentage shares of the media market which it's permissible for one company to own. Polls have demonstrated that opposition to consolidated ownership of the media cuts across partisan lines

Both sides complain about bias, violence, and a lack of good programming. While conservatives tend to complain more often about morality issues, the fact is that no one with kids really wants the networks to be pushing borderline soft core porn or programming with overt foul language during morning kid show hours. The FCC obligingly decrees that you must wait to show that stuff some other time.

This stand reflects a growing dismay over the dearth of locally owned media outlets, and the distance many people feel from the culture that is being portrayed on the big commercial networks. Again, you hardly have to be a Democrat to come to this position. Congress got so many negative phone calls about the unpublicized media consolidation plan put out by the FCC that an overwhelming bipartisan vote (in what you may recall is a Republican controlled Congress) rejected the intended rule change. While I consider affirmative action a still useful economic equalizer, it has absolutely nothing to do with this issue.

Complain about Democrats all you want. But at least complain with accuracy.

Posted by natasha at June 17, 2004 09:26 AM | WA Politics | Technorati links |