words by ethel & paul

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POUNCE ON THE MEDIA. BUT FIRST...

Yes, all the media should be criticized--or at least critiqued--and a few might be praised. But first, be sure the efforts are constructive, based on reasonable expectations and accurate information.

Almost daily, there are complaints against “the newspapers”: They fail to cover, or get the facts wrong, or sensationalize, or bury important stuff. (All correct.) Dissatisfactions with the electronic media aren’t heard so often, maybe because those media are so banal and shallow no one expects information from them.

But the critics have it exactly backwards. The critics can be praised for caring and for speaking out, BUT:

One of the guarantees of the First Amendment is that “Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom...of the press...” And well that is, for we must have the liberty to criticize any Power, any aspect of government, or of society, right up to the life-tenured U.S. Supreme Court. We can do that with a single page home-made leaflet or with a $50 million newspaper.

And we are allowed to be wrong, and even to lie (with some threats of litigation if lies are of a certain character). But we have--we pamphleteers or we newspapers--no--NO obligation, to give an opposing viewpoint, to be objective, to cover any particular event, to use any policy, or to provide any convenience.

Printed words are free, and newspapers historically have been used to further and to enhance their own financial, political, or religious views. They are free of obligations, and should be. If they want readers and subscribers--ah, that is also their decision.

On the other hand, the electonic media are loaded with obligations and restrictions. Their broadcasting requires exclusive use of a band of the spectrum--the airwaves that belong to the people. We the people have the RIGHT to compel would-be broadcasters and present broadcasters to obtain a license to use our airwaves. Unlike the printed word, there is a limit on the space in the airwaves--the space must be allocated. Broadcasters must pledge certain services. They once were required to be FAIR on certain matters. Imagine that: FAIR! Once, case law demanded that they report on issues that affect the lives of persons in their market. Once, they were required to report to any person whose character was attacked on their facility’s outlet that the attacked person has the right to “equal time” to respond. (Candidates for public office are under different rules.)

Government regulations, until very recently, did not restrict editorial content; required only certain information--such as the broadcaster’s identity and location and “farm” services. Now, in this peculiar age of religiosity, seven words are banned.

We the people (your great or great-great grandparents or their parents) demanded a modicum of honor on the part of anyone using our airwaves. This includes radio, television, and kin.

Have broadcasters been honest? NO.
Have they been fair? NO.
Have they been accommodating? NO.
Have they wished to serve their communities in their broadcast market? NO.
Have they served “the public interest, convenience, and necessity” (the rather vague phrase) as their license demands? NO.

No. They are irresponsible money grubbers who have used their enormous, almost unlimited, power to change laws to give them untrammeled freedom to further increase their power in order to subjugate: you viewers, you non-viewers, you activists, you politicians, you rich, and you poor.

(Regarding the Oprah story, does she own anything that can control a significant piece of the electronic media? Be careful when you judge Power. Her Power is a wisp that could be wiped out if she offended the Media Royalty. Book publishers have knuckled under to POWER.)

Does the current President of the U.S. have Power? Even with his active access to the CIA under whose umbrella he grew up? True, some of his Power (out of the barrel of a gun) comes from his putative control of the Armed Forces. (Who reaches the Armed Forces first?)

The President has Power only when he pleases those who own the corporations who own the media. The media can destroy ANYONE.

There used to be (maybe are) opportunities for organizations and even private citizens to challenge the license renewals of errant broadcasters. But when someone did it, the Power-holders quickly destroyed laws and regulations that provided that opportunity, once again confirming their total control.

The electronic media are supposed to be our slaves and servants; we have allowed them to twist it around: We are THEIR slaves.

More to come.

Ethel C. Hale and W. Paul Wharton