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Tilting at Windmills

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February 26, 2009

FAIRNESS DOCTRINE FIGHT REACHES SENATE FLOOR.... Before the Senate can vote on whether to give D.C. residents a voice in Congress, Senate Republican Steering Committee Chairman Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairman John Thune (S.D.) had a not-at-all-related amendment for the chamber to consider.

The Senate voted Thursday in favor of an amendment to the District of Columbia voting-rights bill that would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstating the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which critics say would decimate conservative talk radio.

The Senate passed the measure 87-11.

So, to review, the Senate today approved an amendment to a bill about D.C. voting rights prohibiting the FCC from bringing back an old broadcast policy that the FCC wasn't considering and which the Obama administration does not support. Congress at its finest.

But since it passed overwhelmingly, at least we won't have to hear the right complain about this anymore, right? If only it were that simple. The measure would still have to be approved by the House, which isn't interested in holding a vote.

In response to the DeMint/Thune measure, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) proposed "a rival amendment that he said essentially reaffirmed existing law, which calls for the FCC to encourage diverse media ownership." It passed 57 to 41. Despite the fact that Durbin's measure simply re-stated current law, every Republican in the Senate voted against it.

DeMint told reporters that Democratic efforts to legally encourage diverse media ownership open a "back door to censorship."

I have no idea what DeMint is talking about. Come to think of it, neither does he.

Steve Benen 4:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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I'm glad they took up this important fight instead of working on the appropriations bill that has to be signed by next Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

Posted by: syl on February 26, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

It never fails to crack me up at how much conservatives fear having to actually debate their positions.

The quote mentions how "critics say [the Fairness Doctrine] would decimate conservative talk radio. Why not liberal talk radio?

It's because liberal talk show hosts would welcome any debate with a conservative. There's nothing to fear if you know what you're talking about. Rachel Maddow takes any and all comers. The last one I saw, David Frum, got his ass handed to him.

Posted by: bdop4 on February 26, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

DeMent, Ghune or that little yap dog with the glasses. I can't figure which one is the biggest idiot of the three. How are these people in these positions again?

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on February 26, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom of speech is a hate crime!

Habeas Corpus is a threat to liberty!

Pokemon is a slave trader; Pikachu is a slave master!

Ahh, to be crazy again.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 26, 2009 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

"DeMint told reporters that Democratic efforts to legally encourage diverse media ownership open a 'back door to censorship.'"

DeMint in Wonderland.

Our current broadcast system is censorship at its finest.

For example, there's a corporate advertising boycott of any radio station that plays a syndicated Air America radio program--regardless of ratings achieved by the show (which is why you hear such bazaar commercials on Air America and why they've struggled). In other words, advertisers attempt to decide what comes across our airwaves, not because of supply and demand, but because of ideology. The corporate media censors our airwaves for their benefit.

Unfortunately, encouraging diverse media ownership could only reduce censorship, but it certainly wouldn't encourage it as DeMint would have us believe.

Posted by: CJ on February 26, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

But, don't you see, if this passes, then it becomes a new GOP talking point in the future. They get to flaunt it as a "victory" over the Dems!

Never mind that it is a solution for which there is no real problem...

Posted by: Ranger Jay on February 26, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I have no idea what DeMint is talking about.

Well, it's not hard to figure out. He's entirely in favor of media consolidation. As long as conglomerates can accumulate vast empires of media outlets, free from the meddling of the FCC, the decision to saturate the airwaves with the conservative message remains in just a few pliable hands.

Encouraging diversity in ownership means there would be more room for contrary opinions. And if that's not censorship, I don't know what is!

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on February 26, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

No, if the Fairness Doctrine were ever reinstated, the next Republican administration would use it aggressively to shut down Air America and Pacifica, and tell Rachel Maddow that since partisan Republicans are boycotting her she also can't have partisan Democrats on. Just because Republicans are against it doesn't mean it's a good thing.

Posted by: Joe Buck on February 26, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Country First, my friends.

Posted by: John Sidney McCain III on February 26, 2009 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "I have no idea what DeMint is talking about. Come to think of it, neither does he."

DeMint knows exactly what he's talking about, and I would certainly hope that a high-profile liberal blogger such as yourself would know also.

DeMint is talking about the fact that a handful of giant corporations own and control virtually all of the mass media in America, from which most Americans get most of their information.

DeMint is talking about the fact that those corporations don't use the mass media to impartially educate and inform the American people about facts and issues out of the goodness of their hearts, in the public interest. Instead, they use the mass media to propagandize the American people in furtherance of the corporate aristocracy's interests, which pretty much coincides with right-wing Republican policies.

DeMint is talking about the fact that the Bush-Cheney administration's Republican-dominated FCC enacted policies of radically deregulating media ownership that enabled those giant corporations to gobble up more and more of America's last remaining independent radio and TV stations and networks and newspapers, in direct contravention of "existing law, which calls for the FCC to encourage diverse media ownership."

DeMint, in the classic Orwellian manner, is saying that any policies that encourage diverse ownership of the media, and thereby stand in the way of the giant media corporations' quest for complete totalitarian control of all information that reaches the American people, amount to "censorship".

Here, from the Media Reform Information Center, is what DeMint is talking about, and why the Republicans voted unanimously against an amendment reaffirming the FCC's existing obligation to encourage diverse media ownership:

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. At the time, Ben Bagdikian was called "alarmist" for pointing this out in his book, The Media Monopoly.

In his 4th edition, published in 1992, he wrote "in the U.S., fewer than two dozen of these extraordinary creatures own and operate 90% of the mass media" -- controlling almost all of America's newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies. He predicted then that eventually this number would fall to about half a dozen companies. This was greeted with skepticism at the time.

When the 6th edition of The Media Monopoly was published in 2000, the number had fallen to six. Since then, there have been more mergers and the scope has expanded to include new media like the Internet market. More than 1 in 4 Internet users in the U.S. now log in with AOL Time-Warner, the world's largest media corporation.

In 2004, Bagdikian's revised and expanded book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) -- now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric's NBC is a close sixth.

Do you not know this? Have you ever read Bagdikian's book? Do you not realize that this is what all the fake, phony, scripted, Republican hyperventilating about the "Fairness Doctrine" is all about?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 26, 2009 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Secular, I alluded to this above, although not as succinctly as you normally manage to do. I think breaking up these monopolies should be championed at a high level, and we should utilize our grass roots movement to make this a national debate.

Posted by: citizen_pain on February 26, 2009 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

(Sorry, posted too soon)

After all, the founding fathers wisely recognized a free society depends on freedom of information. They're rolling in their graves right now I'm sure.

For our republic's survival, this is issue should be taken as seriously as any other major crisis.

Posted by: citizen_pain on February 26, 2009 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

I can see that the next few years are going to be really fun. Every day, I laugh uncontrollably at what the Republicans are saying or doing. And they're just getting warmed up. The next day is even funnier. I can't wait to see what the punchline is. The only downside of this is that The Onion might go out of business. They can't keep up with the Republicans. Jim Bunning alone deserves his own Comedy Central slot. CSPAN has already become the funniest channel I have, and I have more channels than I can count. I used to think Texas politics was hilarious, but they can't hold a candle to the US Legislature.

Posted by: fostert on February 26, 2009 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

For our republic's survival, this is issue should be taken as seriously as any other major crisis.

But Citizen_Pain, this HAS been taken care of. It's called the Internets. And I firmly believe it's a much better method for conveying information than TV, radio, or newspapers could ever be. I wouldn't care if there was the greatest news show in the world. I STILL wouldn't watch it. I absolutely hate passive news and think it destroys our minds to sit passively while being fed news that we can't factcheck. Together, we have far more influence than the media ever has, as evidenced by the fact that the Internet's favorite candidate trounced the media's darling for president.

I'm of the opinion that the future of journalism is to do away with TV and radio news, which is inherently too passive, pointless, and inadequate. And the focus will be on news orgs like the AP and free-lance journalists. And they need to do away with all the opinion/lifestyle/fluff that people are giving away for free on the internet, and focus on straight-up hard journalism, which is the only thing we need them for. And the news orgs that do the best will be the ones that deliver the best journalism.

This is their future business model, whether they like it or not. It's simply a matter of how long it takes before they realize it. And even a corporate master will realize that the entertainment they've preferred to sell us is no longer a viable commodity.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 26, 2009 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

I am confused...

Aren't the right-wingers always complaining about the "liberal media bias"? You'd think they would WANT a little more fairness in media...

Posted by: islandgeek on February 26, 2009 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Congress at its finest.

credit where credit is due: republican congresspersons at their finest. Sure a bunch of democrats voted for a VERY important bill to give DC residents long overdue representation that happened to have an amendment attached to it by moronic republicans, but lets be very clear what democrats were voting for and how the moronic amendment got there.

Posted by: pluege on February 26, 2009 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

I am confused...

Aren't the right-wingers always complaining about the "liberal media bias"? You'd think they would WANT a little more fairness in media...

don't be confused, right-wingers are delusional liars that make up any shit that suits their purpose. Generally, the truth is opposite of anything wingnuts say.
.

Posted by: pluege on February 26, 2009 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Eleven senators voted against defending free speech? Frightening.

Posted by: Al on February 26, 2009 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Methinks he doth protest too much. How many blog posts does it take to deny a "non-issue"?

Posted by: Luther on February 26, 2009 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Gawd, are these people on the taxpayer's payroll? What a bunch of goobers. Goobers with salmonella.

A blog I used to read has a commenter whose senator was DeMint. The poster disparagingly referred to him as "DeMentia". Yep. Though it is a bit disrespectful to people with dementia.

Posted by: The Rs are Losers on February 26, 2009 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

What other fictional crises can we get the Senate to pass amendments against?

How about a rider that prevents the FDA from authorizing the use of space alien meat in canned food products?

Perhaps a bill requiring that NOAA not fund any expeditions to the Center of the Earth for the purposes of capturing live dinosaur specimens?

Silly Republicans. If you're gonna go all apeshit about stuff you've made up, couldn't it be at least be more entertaining than the Fairness Doctrine? I mean, come on! Use some creativity, for goodness sake.

Posted by: biggerbox on February 26, 2009 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

I am confused...

Aren't the right-wingers always complaining about the "liberal media bias"? You'd think they would WANT a little more fairness in media...

Don't be confused, right-wingers are delusional liars that make up any shit that suits their purpose. Generally, the truth is opposite of anything wingnuts say.

Pleuge,
I guess you don't recognize sarcasm when you see it. But I do agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the wingnuts.

Posted by: islandgeek on February 26, 2009 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

Someone pointed out on another blog that this means that Republicans who voted against the DC vote actually voted to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine!

Ed

Posted by: Ed Drone on February 26, 2009 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

I do not understand why you continue to ridicule the idea of reinstating the fairness doctrine.
I would take back our gift of the airways to the mainstream media. Why you think it is so cool to subsidize Limbaugh and OReily with no comparably sized bull horn for the left of center? Moreover, I would like to see much more factual checking and BS detecting and exposure, and much less insane battling of talking heads and their opinions.

Posted by: Doug Page on February 27, 2009 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

Steve,

Playing stupid doesn't become you.

What DeMint is talking about, and you surely understand this, is having the FCC appoint "community representatives" to weigh in on license renewals; those "community representatives" would then complain if a local radio station failed to "recognize the diversity in the community" by not broadcasting liberal opinion along with conservative opinion. To avoid problems with license renewals, the corporations that own the radio stations will just get rid of the offending stuff - since there's only a limited market for liberal talk radio (see, e.g., the recent demise of Air America), putting more liberal opinion on the air would be death, so they'll just switch formats to another classic rock station.

This is so obviously the game afoot that I'm not sure why you even bother to play the innocent. Who do you think you're fooling?

Posted by: DBL on February 27, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Irony alert: DBL wrote Playing stupid doesn't become you

Please explain, DBL, why the public airwaves should be used to air, without rebuttal, only one political point of view. Thanks in advance.

bdop4 wrote: It never fails to crack me up at how much conservatives fear having to actually debate their positions.

It never fails to crack me up how conservatives flat-out admit that being forced to present alternative viewpoints -- i.e. being called on their bullshit -- will destroy conservative talk radio.

but again, since when is one political point of view entitled to exclusive access to the public airwaves?

By the way, the bit abour reversing Reagan-era media ownership rules is the key here.

Posted by: Gregory on February 27, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory:

Here, try this: "Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise of speech, or of the press,..." The First Amendment doesn't say that Congress may ensure that the press is fair or that it's even handed or anything like that. It contemplates that the press can say any damn thing about politicians the want and there's nothing that Senators and Congressmen can do about this, not matter how much they might dislike what is being said about them. This fundamental principle - which I thought most liberals agreed with - that the Government has no business monitoring or censoring or otherwise limiting free speech and the free press -means that the Government has a heavy burden to bear when it wants to do that. You start with the presumption that the attempted exercise of regulatory authority is invalid and only if there is some extremely powerful reason justifying the Government's exercise of power over the press is it allowed.

In this case, what is the justification? You can't argue that electronic media outlets are scarce; we are deluged every day with electronic opinion - radio, HD radio, satellite radio, TV, cable, the internet. There's no shortage of outlets for liberal opinion - or for any other type of opinion, for that matter. There's no other justification for censorship and Government control here, either.

I hope this explanation helps. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Posted by: DBL on February 27, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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