Jonesthe Spy wrote:There's actually a very simple answer to this - Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine of the FCC. From the 40's to 1987 TV and radio broadcasters were required to present different points of view on important public issues as part of the responsibilities that being given a broadcasting license entailed, to make an effort to be as accurate in their reporting as possible, and to give people who were personally attacked on a broadcast the opportunity to respond. For instance, Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers used the Fairness Doctrine rules to be given airtime on the radio station that allowed members of the White Citizens Council to attack him on the air.
It is absolutely no coincidence that the totally partisan broadcasts such as Fox and Limbaugh and assorted clones appeared after the Fairness Act was done away with, and I think that the incredibly partisan media outlets are EXACTLY why we're in the state we're in. Imagine if, for instance, Limbaugh had to allow Sandra Fluke on his show to respond after his vicious, grade-school attack a few months ago. You can bet that the tenor of the national dialogue would be very different.
The Fairness Doctrine made some sense when radio and television were still almost exclusively local, because the media outlets in a particular region were all people had access to. Today media is mostly national. So even if Sandra Fluke didn't get to respond directly on Rush Limbaugh's show; she could (and did) respond before a national audience. It was important for Medgar Evers to be able to respond on the same radio station that was used to attack him, because that was the most reasonable way to ensure that he got to defend himself in front of the same audience that heard him attacked... Today, Medgar Evers would respond on several national networks.
Aside from that, while the desire to make media outlets "fair" is noble, in practice it's just far too subjective. What is fair? The folks on FOX News probably believe they are being fair and balanced; and so do the folks at NBC News. And yet both networks are obviously biased, just in opposite directions. Who gets to decide what is fair and balanced? Do you really want the government deciding when something (especially something about the government) is fair or when all sides have been adequately represented?
I see potential for abuse of power when the government (be it by agency, committee, or however they do it) gets to make a determination about how "fair" a media outlet is being, or gets to decide when that outlet needs to allow time for a conflicting point of view.