15 July 2007

Conservatives assume there is a level playing field, an equality of access, and everyone has the equal right to compete

Conservatives have been spending resources battling back a resurgent drive to restore the Fairness Doctrine, as according to recent studies and just general common sense observation, the medium of radio is dominated by conservatives.
A recent study shows that this is not the case in broadcasting. Among the five largest radio networks, over 90% of the broadcasting is conservative. Conservative talk show hosts continue to dominate the airways across America, attacking progressives and their positions.

There is reason to demand balance be brought back into broadcasting. Is there true freedom (of speech) or fairness when only one side of an argument is consistently allowed to be heard? Why do conservatives and progressives have such different views of freedom and fairness?

While I don't believe it's necessary to restore the Fairness Doctrine edict, there should be more done by the government to ensure that license holders, granted access to limited frequencies by the government, actually serve the public interest. And that means more live and local, less canned tape delay neoconservative blathering. What is needed is more programming dedicated to educating and informing voter with a variety of viewpoints, and less of an effort to turn radio broadcasting into an automaton exercise. The detested practice of leasing air time to infomercial hawkers or running a perpetual commercial loop for other stations owned by same frequency holder should be banished.

Some will argue that such measures are no longer necessary, that there are many viable options available to consumers, from the internet to the satellite radio. While it is true that there is now an abundance of alternative media sources, none can rival the penetration and ubiquity of terrestrial radio. It's still the cheapest and most plentiful medium — most people have at least dozen radios scattered about their living quarters. And it doesn't require subscriptions or even a electricity connection, as all of these other new-fangled marvels of technology require. A simple stock of batteries (or even hand cranked/crystal radio) can keep one plugged in to what is happening in the community, nation and world.

The issue must be on the talking points sent out by Republican strategy operatives, because I'm now hearing radio hosts pound away on the issue now, a surprise since most initiatives related to the FCC, in regards to the "public interest" are generally ignored purposefully and only brought to light by citizen groups working in earnest to maintain democratic checks and balances on oligarchic interests prescribed by our country's founding fathers. Let the market decide, they proclaim, disdainfully casting aside the original FCC charter that the airwaves belong to the public, and in exchange for a broadcast license, a broadcaster must serve the public interest in return. Of larger concern, however, is the educating and informing citizens on civic affairs. Something that many commercial interests would like to dispose of, and focus on the sole concern of increasing profits. Nothing wrong with operating for profits, but representative democracy for all requires the active participation of an informed public.

In this age, the internet is evolving into the best medium for serving both news and knowledge. But many still don't have access or don't have time to sit down at a computer. Instead they get their news from television and radio. And radio can always be on — at the job site (even via headphones), on the drive to/from work, on the porch, etc.…