BARRY’S BLOG-Friday 21, 2014
I observed a very interesting event this week. The Federal Government, through the Federal Communications Commission issued a memorandum that they were hiring contractors to enter America’s Radio and TV NEWS-rooms to monitor how subjects are selected for reporting on the air. It appeared the FCC wanted this to be quietly issued, but it was soon picked up and went viral in one day. Why this event was so interesting to me is I have been in the business so many years as a broadcaster and observer I see this as a return to the Governments attempt to control the airwaves which started in 1920 when KDKA was put on the air by Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh PA. Newspapers had been around for decades and were not controlled under the constitution’s guarantee of Freedom of the Press. Newspapers were very bias and were even called “Republican” and “Democrat” as they named themselves. They opined on Editorial pages but publishers in the early years kept NEWS rooms completely separate and often did great investigative reporting on political crime and dishonesty. Politicians both sought coverage from Newspapers as well as feared them. One astute politician was quoted as saying: “Never make the man that buys ink by the barrel angry”!
So when broadcasting was born in 1920, politicians were really concerned at this new medium, and started immediately to place many rules and regulations in place. First they created the Federal Communications Commission as an engineering based agency to assign frequency to new stations to protect from signals interfering with each other. Broadcasting also was mostly an entertainment medium for its first 20 years. It was World War II and broadcasters like Edward R. Murrow reporting from Europe that shifted Broadcasting into the NEWS business. By then, the Feds had placed many restrictions in place to keep broadcasters from becoming too powerful and having power over people by persuading them to oppose Government actions and policies.
As time went buy, in 1949, the Government imposed what was called the “FAIRNESS DOCTRINE “. In simple terms, the act said broadcasters had to present all sides of any broadcast feature including news, and it was their responsibility to do so. No such requirement was placed on print media so there was always some resentment they do so with the electronic media. This act was repealed in 1987 and left broadcasters to opine on matters of local and national importance. The political community has always tried to get ink and broadcast time but still over all fear opposition, and continue to find way’s to control it. This became apparent again this week when the FCC announced their monitor program. Broadcasters have reacted as expected with outrage.
In the meantime, major shifts have taken place in media. The obvious was the advent of Cable Television News Channels which were started by Ted Turner in 1980 which started an entire new path of news coverage and opinion without government control. the FCC has license control over broadcasters at the transmitter level but nothing over networks, none of which require license from the Government. These cable networks have evolved overtime and gained viewers that in some cases surpass the over air networks like NBC, CBS and ABC. In other words, left to its own devises and no Government control the audience chooses what they want to watch and listen to. Any doubt? How many of us know the names of icon’s like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly. Name the Network anchors if you can.
The other massive shift that has taken place is the arrival of the Internet. The Government started development of this concept in the late 60’s but the system as we know it today was developed in the 80’s. It’s original intent was to stabilize engineering standards for the inter-connection of computers and provide a highway that would have adequate protections and allow all big and small computers to talk with each other and swap information. So in 30 years we have computers, telephones, IPads and televisions all merged together. This massive system also does not have any Government control over its content, and its size and systems may deny Government controls if attempted.
The constitutional freedom of speech does always seem to find a channel to communicate that is out of reach those in power eventually try to muzzle. God bless American genius!
Have a great day, be kind to your self and be happy!