Thursday, September 08, 2011

The News Wasn't Always Reported for Profit

With all the mass media concentrated in a few hands, the ancient faith in the competition of ideas in the free market seems like a hollow echo of a much simpler day ~ Kingman Brewster, Jr. (6/17/1919 to 11/8/1988) an educator, president of Yale University, and American diplomat.

The following monologue is an excerpt from the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, 8/11/2011, which I edited for brevity and clarity. Thom's rant concerns reporting the news for profit, the Fairness Doctrine and Republican attempts to distort what the consequences of it were...

Thom Hartmann: The fact of the matter is, in 1987 when Reagan stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine. The core of the Fairness Doctrine was not, if you put an hour of Rush Limbaugh on you've got to put an hour of Thom Hartmann on. It had nothing to do with that. There were talk shows, in fact Alan Berg's talk show was on the air back in the 70s out of Denver, and he was blowing a signal into 20-some-odd states. He was the most popular talk show host in America. He was a Liberal. He was gunned down by a couple of neo-Nazis. The next big talk radio guy to come along was Rush Limbaugh in 1987.

When Reagan stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine, the core piece of it was that, in order to own a broadcast license... in order to have the right to broadcast over the air (radio or television), you had to be broadcasting in the public interest. That was interpreted by the FCC as meaning you had to actually present news. The news had to be unbiased, and it had to be disconnected from any commercial interests of the station or the advertisers of the station.

Back in the 70s I worked in news for 7 years... and I could have gotten fired for hanging out with the sales people. You just didn't do it. The news divisions were separate. The news divisions of all the networks lost money. The fairness doctrine ceasing to be enforced in 1987 was the first chink in the armor, then in 1997, after Bill Clinton signed the telecommunications act... this really put the nail in the coffin.

I was driving down the street and I heard a news report that said that CBS news, the storied home of Walter Cronkite, had just put their news division under the control of the Vice President of Entertainment at CBS... which meant that the news division was now a profit center... which meant that instead of getting news, you were now going to be getting infotainment.

You were now going to get the stuff that was profitable to the network and the stuff that flattered the advertisers. You wouldn't get the stuff that was hurtful to the advertisers. If they had part ownership in a movie studio, suddenly we're going to see those movie stars on their news programs. If they have part ownership in a publishing company you're going to see those authors being profiled, you know, whatever. And I remember thinking; this is really a sad day for America. Not just for journalism but for America.

My Commentary: On 8/18/2011 a commenter on a Conservative blog I frequent said, "Even news has to be a profit center in today's world". The comment was in response to the Conservative blogger's post about women he finds attractive hosting news programs. Obviously the goal of these news programs is to draw men in to oggle the beauties. It obviously works for the Conservative blogger Willis Hart who watches Fox Nooz programs for this reason. This is an individual I've discussed before. He calls himself a moderate but is really a moderate to liberal Republican.

But the Conservative/Moderate blogger isn't the reason for this post. The reason for this post is because I wanted to respond to what a Conservative commenter said about the news being a profit center in today's world. In response to that comment an individual who calls himself dmarks said, "It's always been that way. Go back to the days of Uncle Walter, and beyond to Benjamin Franklin's original Saturday Evening Post".

I'm not positive what "Uncle Walter" dmarks is referring to, but Wikipedia says Uncle Walter is "a nickname for broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite". During Walter Cronkite's time the news was not reported for profit. The news wasn't reported for profit from 1949 when the Fairness doctrine was introduced until August of 1987, when the FCC abolished the doctrine by a 4-0 vote (38 years).

The above comments by Thom Hartmann reflect the world as it actually was, a reality I thought even a conservative would acknowledge, simply because nobody would believe a rewriting of history so severe. But clearly Conservatives left the reality based community long ago and have never looked back.

Note: If you are a subscriber to the Thom Hartmann program podcast, the location of the quoted segment of audio can be found at 31:10 to 33:58 of Hour 3 on Thursday 8/11/2011.

Further Reading
[1] Fairness Doctrine: Secret Republican Agenda Exposed! by Craig Aaron, The Huffington Post 1/8/2009.
[2] The Fairness Doctrine How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back by Steve Rendall, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) 2/12/2005.

Video: Thom Hartmann asks "should the Fairness Doctrine death be taken off the books?"

SWTD #94

1 comment:

  1. Rewriting history is a required skill for today's conservative.


Comment moderation has temporarily been suspended. Although I may be forced to reinstate it if the trolls take advantage.