Thursday, September 30, 2004

There's nothing like Freedom of Speech...

CBS, NBC and ABC have all refused to run adverts for the DVD of Farenheit 9/11 during news show advertising breaks, citing 'the closeness of the election' as their reason.

Conversely 62 Sinclair owned TV stations, a CBS affiliate and a Fox affiliate have no compunctions about inserting heavily biased 'commentaries' into news program The Point.

Since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine there has been little legislative ammunition left to prevent the media's inexorable slide to the right:

"The Point" is within the law, according to officials with the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

Federal law prohibits corporations from spending money to influence a federal election, but there's an exemption for news stories and commentary, said George Smaragdis, a spokesman for the election commission.

There is no obligation for equal air time in this case, according to the FCC. The law that required broadcast stations that promote a political candidate to give opposing candidates a chance to reply was repealed.

No positive developments regarding fairness and accuracy in the media are likely to happen in the near future since Bush appointed Colin Powell's son Michael to the position of Chairman of the FCC in 2001:

In addition to his normal duties, Mr. Powell serves as the FCC's Defense Chairman and is responsible for overseeing all National Security Emergency Preparedness functions for the Commission."

Interpret that how you will.

The media is the battleground of democracy, as the Czech Experience demonstrated. When Ceaucescu was overthrown in Romania, one of the first acts of the Insurgents was to take control of the TV station and broadcast the revolution:

...What followed is well known: the angry population forced its way into the Central Committee headquarters while Ceausescu and his wife took off in a helicopter that was stationed on the roof of the same building. From this moment on, TVR became, through the famous Studio 4, the “heart of the new Romania”, as it had proclaimed itself. “The radio television had become a real center of the revolution and its shows did not only reflect the progress of the revolution, a very important factor in itself, but also urged the people to finish the started revolutionary process. During these shows, together with the condemnation of the old regime, a lot of ideas and suggestions were formed, actual programs on how Romania should evolve to become a free and democratic state. Many of these programs turned into realities in the following days and were strengthened by the normative acts adopted later”.

In Russia in 2001 NTV journalists occupied the studios and thousands of sympathisers took to the streets to protest against government interference with the station.

A politically independent media is the measure of the health of a democracy. Eastern Europe recognised this. Unfortunately the majority of the US population doesn't seem to realise what they have lost. Roger Ailes must be pretty happy about that.

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