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Tune in to "The Scoot Show" for lively, candid discussions about news, politics and culture with WWL's "Radical Moderate!"

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Scoot: Is Obama hoping to control the media?

This is scary! The FCC, an agency of the government, proposed a plan to place officers in radio and TV newsrooms to investigate “the process by which stories are selected” and “perceived station bias.”

The proposal, proposed last May, is scheduled to be implemented this spring in Columbia, SC before spreading to other newsrooms across the country.  The plan is titled, “The Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” and includes interviewing station managers, news directors, journalists, anchors and on-air reporters about their “news philosophy.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was created to regulate the licensing and the transmission of broadcasts - but not the content of the media. Even in the area of indecency, the FCC has little control over what is broadcast due to the longstanding, hands-off relationship between the government and the media.

Many Americans fear the power of a liberal media and many others fear the power of a right-wing media. Since the FCC does have authority over the licensing of radio and TV broadcasters, there have been concerns that the government could stall or even reject the renewal of the broadcast licenses of stations for political reasons disguised as a function of the bureaucratic system.

In the 1970s during the Watergate scandal when President Richard Nixon was the target of a scandal that would lead to his resignation, the FCC challenged the licenses of two television stations owned by the Washington Post – the newspaper that initiated the Watergate scandal.

Is the FCC under President Obama positioning itself to threaten radio and TV stations that are critical of the Administration? That possibility or even the impression of government intimidation of radio and TV stations is a sobering thought for a nation that prides itself on freedom of speech.

I constantly hear some listeners bring up their deep concern for the influence of a liberal media. Over more recent years, the concern that a liberal media was influencing the opinions of American voters gave birth to conservative radio talk shows and the FOX News Channel, and the growing voices of the right have led to concern that right-wing radio and FOX News are poisoning the minds of Americans and spreading hate.

It is no secret that President Obama has expressed his understanding that many conservative talk show hosts and the FOX News Channel are his media adversaries. The proposed plan by the FCC, under President Obama, to determine how news stories are selected and any station bias in reporting or presenting stories or topics should send a chill up the spine of every American.

In 1949, lawmakers in Washington were concerned that the media could use its broadcast licenses to promote a specific political agenda to the American public. The Fairness Doctrine was passed and became part of the broadcasting landscape. The Fairness Doctrine mandated that the broadcast networks provide the opportunity to present view points on both sides of key issues. In the 1970s, the FCC called the Fairness Doctrine the “single most important requirement of operations in the public interest” for the granting of broadcast licenses.

Conservative talk radio first began to gain popularity during the Reagan Presidency. In 1987 with Reagan in the White House, the FCC voted 4-0 to repeal the Fairness Doctrine and the flood gates were opened for the freedom to push specific agendas on the air without the fear of repercussions.

Radio and TV stations, as well as individual hosts, are free to be politically one-sided and while Americans on both sides object to the strict promotion of the political views they disagree with – freedom to be conservative or liberal on the air is protected by the First Amendment – as it should be.

I hear from listeners who condemn MSNBC for bashing conservatives and I hear listeners condemn the Limbaughs of radio and FOX News for constantly bashing President Obama. Both sides have a right to complain – but both sides have a right to their agendas.

As I have mentioned on The Scoot Show on WWL, the fear of the media actually controlling the minds of Americans is more of a perceived fear than a reality. Concern for a liberal media swaying the American public was prominent when Ronald Reagan was elected twice, when George H.W. Bush was elected and when George W. Bush was elected twice.

The concern that right-wing conservatives on the air were directing the collective opinions of Americans was present when Bill Clinton and Barak Obama were both elected twice. In an atmosphere of polarized media – both parties have successfully elected presidents. 

Contrary to what many Americans have been taught, the media more reflects the views of its audience than dictating political ideology. FOX News and MSNBC both exist, for the most part, in an echo chamber – they speak to their audiences that have selected their bias presentation of the news and topics because they reflect what they believe. Unfortunately, Americans are not always seeking to learn objectivity or even the truth – Americans tend to migrate toward the media outlets or the personalities that share their opinions rather than open their minds.

Fear of a liberal media created the need for conservative talk radio which led to the FOX News Channel and the popularity of FOX News led to the creation of MSNBC. That’s a classic example of how the free enterprise system works.

America is changing. The dominant right and dominant left-leaning media will lose favor with a mass audience as the majority of Americans – not strictly right or left – become more vocal. FOX News and MSNBC will adjust to a changing America or face a loss of audience. Trends in the media are cyclical and the saturation of hard-core, one-sided rhetoric will give way to the majority in this country.

President Obama has said that he does not believe the FCC should control content, but the plan to insert FCC officers in radio and TV newsrooms across the country does not appear to support the President’s words.

The idea of the government – under a Democrat or a Republican president – influencing the content of the media – is much more threatening than those opinions on the right or the left that you so vehemently disagree with!

 


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People : Barak ObamaBill ClintonGeorge H.W. BushGeorge W. BushIs ObamaRichard NixonRonald Reagan




 
02/20/2014 6:01PM
Scoot: Is Obama hoping to control the media?
Please Enter Your Comments Below
02/20/2014 7:26PM
Update on this
This plan is being pulled back and reviewed - just in fairness here. http://www.adweek.com/news/press/fcc-backs-study-newsroom-editorial-practices-155673 - as a person with media experience, I do believe it was more of an academic exercise than censorship intent and believe the President's opponents will of course insert him into it even if it was simply the idea of one commissioner - Ms. Clyburn. As media consumption habits change, it would seem the FCC is trying to determine how that impacts news and what their role is if any. Many other countries have successfully made it clear that "news" is held to a different standard than "comment" - talk radio would be commentary/entertainment. In Canada, you can have a conservative news channel (Sun News - their version of Fox) but you cannot lie or libel. Our courts have legally said that you can lie in political ads and on television news. I'm not so sure that is "free speech" as much as it is clearly dishonest poisoning of the debate. All debates, left or right, have to start with some level of fact and honesty.
02/20/2014 7:28PM
Also
The main point of the plan was a survey - to be sent to the stations. NOT to put an FCC "officer" in the newsroom. The understanding I was given is that these surveys would be sent to the outlets and they would "self report" and the results would be processed and made into statistics and a report - NOT that the FCC would spend personal time visiting. This has been distorted similar to the "90,000 new IRS agents" rumors that were spread at the start of the Affordable Care Act.
02/20/2014 8:39PM
FCC
Has done this before. http://transition.fcc.gov/osp/inc-report/INoC-Executive_Summary.pdf - it's only being controversially represented now because of people afraid of a worst case scenario. But the idea of the study itself is neither new nor revolutionary.
02/20/2014 9:05PM
FCC to support gay agenda /abortion
Wwl host scoot, tommy tucker and deke will fall in line with propganda of pushing gay agenda
02/20/2014 9:48PM
Even Ajit Pai
Admitted that this survey was "voluntary." Stations could participate or not. This is another story being misrepresented by the tin foil hat crowd that makes everything out to be a conspiracy. Is it bureaucratic bull? Yeah. Is it fascism? No. Facists MAKE people do things. This was just another academic exercise by someone with time on their hands. Remember when the far right SWORE there was a "north american union" treaty to unionize Canada, America and Mexico? It was a research paper done by an academic and submitted for review but was never a matter of US Government policy or interest. People always believe the worst.
02/21/2014 12:09AM
Media Congkomerates
All this and no mention or apparent concern om your part that 90% of US media is now in control of of 6 media conglomerates?
02/21/2014 1:46AM
Callers RE Socialism, communism, isms.
Not to go too deep into the woods here but all modern democracies have elements of "socialism." Europe, etc. While many like to use that word, socialism itself can be an element of many things. Just as America is not a pure Democracy or a pure Republic. The nuance is lost on most listeners & viewers - but the idea of America, Canada or any other country as not at all influenced by even the mildest form of socialist thought simply isn't true. There are many shades of grey in politics and history. For reference - youtube the "America is not the greatest nation" speech from the TV drama "The Newsroom." Very thought provoking.
02/21/2014 7:55PM
Update
FCC Spokesperson SHANNON GILSON issued a statement reading, “By law, the FCC must report to Congress every three years on the barriers that may prevent entrepreneurs and small business from competing in the media marketplace, and pursue policies to eliminate those barriers. To fulfill that obligation in a meaningful way, the FCC's Office of Communications Business Opportunities consulted with academic researchers in 2012 and selected a contractor to design a study which would inform the FCC’s report to Congress. Last summer, the proposed study was put out for public comment and one pilot to test the study design in a single marketplace – COLUMBIA, S.C. – was planned. “However, in the course of FCC review and public comment, concerns were raised that some of the questions may not have been appropriate. Chairman WHEELER agreed that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required. Last week, Chairman WHEELER informed lawmakers that that Commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters and would be modifying the draft study. Yesterday, the Chairman directed that those questions be removed entirely. “To be clear, media owners and journalists will no longer be asked to participate in the COLUMBIA, S.C. pilot study. The pilot will not be undertaken until a new study design is final. Any subsequent market studies conducted by the FCC, if determined necessary, will not seek participation from or include questions for media owners, news directors or reporters. “Any suggestion that the FCC intends to regulate the speech of news media or plans to put monitors in America's newsrooms is false. The FCC looks forward to fulfilling its obligation to Congress to report on barriers to entry into the communications marketplace, and is currently revising its proposed study to achieve that goal.”
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