Posted 2 years ago on Feb. 29, 2012, 3:07 a.m. EST by ARod1993
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
We've complained about this problem on the OWS forum I don't know how many times, and it is true that the way things are right now we can't really trust any particular media outlet on its own to give us a complete picture of what's going on in the world at any given moment. I'd like to suggest a plan of action to rectify it at least partially, both in the short term and quite possibly in the longer term as well. To begin, we should consider pushing for the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time Rule.
As far as I'm aware, the rationale for dropping the Fairness Doctrine was that the sheer breadth of channels available on things like cable TV meant that we could endorse the "anything goes" mentality because if the field was wide enough then surely somebody would keep the public interest in mind and journalism would get better for the lack of regulation. Did that actually happen? Absolutely not. Actual good investigative journalism became much harder to find on the airwaves, and generally the group that would go out of its way to look for it was the group that needed it the least.
The Equal Time Rule would also be a great way to deal with changing the way we run campaigns in this country, as it pretty much dictates that no television station or overtly political event, save a few exceptions, may offer different airtime rates for different candidates and are required to give the candidates the same sweetheart rates that they give firms with whom they have a close relationship. I would expand its scope a bit so that actual debates would be subject to these provisions (providing an appropriate forum for independent candidates) and consider requiring broadcast TV stations to provide actual equal advertising time to all who request it.
Also, just a little side note: the Fairness Doctrine provided a very wide latitude to television stations as to how controversial political issues are presented or how different points and counterpoints are presented (format, style, length, etc.). A 1-to-1 equal time rule for different views was also not enforced and in fact was not part of the doctrine. The point was that differing views must be given their chance to be heard, and the standards of how this was to be accomplished was left up to the stations themselves. It was a way of holding broadcast TV to decent journalistic standards without exerting influence over which views were or were not "allowed".
To the people who want to cry censorship: there are already things that you can't say or do on broadcast TV because it is public airspace (the "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" routine is one of the more humorous examples); the only reason I can think of that those rules should even exist is that on some level broadcast TV should be required to maintain a minimum level of usefulness for the American people. If we're going to sanitize broadcast TV the least we can do is put more intelligent programming on it.
If acting outside the political sector is more your thing, then you should start by knowing this: We actually already have something operating largely independently of corporate influence; it's called PBS (short for Public Broadcasting Service) and it operates for the most part free of corporate sponsorship. It's a highly decentralized organization in which individual member stations (which in turn are run by local nonprofits, communities, or universities) will supply a lot of their own content, with a few of the biggest stations (WGBH Boston, WNET New York, and WETA in DC) contributing a lot of the more interesting stuff including the NewsHour and Frontline. There are no ads and they run large parts of their operations off of small private donors. They haven't been perfect, but they've been light-years better than most commercial TV stations.
If you could somehow get the update frequency of CNN or various Internet outlets and marry it to the journalistic quality and depth provided by people like the NewsHour team and Bill Moyers, then that would be truly amazing. I brought up PBS because it would seem to be the logical place to start with any plan to build a completely independent news network (because it already is an independent network with a fairly strong base in the communities in which it operates and an independent program pipeline).
What I would advise you to do if you're really interested in this issue is start on Change.org with an online petition addressed to the head of PBS to staff a completely independent wire service and correspondent network of its own and to work with affiliated TV stations to obtain additional 24-7 news channels so that stories can be broadcast as they come in from the wire service.
On top of that, I would look into fundraising platforms like Causes; identify PBS as your nonprofit of choice, and see how many people you could get to donate a few dollars here and there to fund the start-up costs and continued staffing of the wire service and network offices. That way, your request (which I'd figure would be quite expensive to implement) would come with an at least partial funding source, and I think that would go a long way toward getting it implemented.
tl;dr: If you don't like how things are now, do something about it. Start pushing your representatives to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time Rule, and look into trying to get people to give PBS an independent wire service. Complaining about problems is a great way to get started, but now let's try fixing them.