from the Congress Action newsletter

Unbiased Media

by: Kim Weissman
October 15, 2000

Last week the Federal Communications Commission suspended some existing rules regarding media editorializing and personal attacks:

"The political editorial rule provides generally that if a licensee airs an editorial supporting a political candidate, it must notify other candidates for that office of the editorial and provide them an opportunity to respond on-the-air. Similarly, the personal attack rule provides generally that when, during a program on a controversial issue of public importance, an attack is made on someone’s integrity, the licensee must inform the subject of the attack and provide an opportunity to respond on-the-air. … The Commission said that temporarily suspending the rule[s] during the current election period would enable it to receive updated information on these issues."

Back in 1980, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio-Television News Directors Association complained that the political editorial and personal attack rules violated the First Amendment. The FCC abandoned the "fairness doctrine" in 1985, and on October 4 suspended the corollary political editorial and personal attack rules during the current election and see how many complaints they received, before re-thinking the rules. The federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit obviated the need for the FCC to re-think anything, ruling on Wednesday that the rules were unconstitutional, and that the FCC hadn't made any attempt, over two decades, to justify them.

Now that the rules are suspended, the media will be free to editorialize for and against particular candidates without having to provide equal time. Further, with the rules suspended, the media will be free to attack and vilify conservatives with impunity, without fear that those they have lied about might demand a right to respond. But when the media "changes" its policies, the big question is — how will anyone be able to tell?

As outrageous as all this sounds, the partisans in the media might have finally gone too far. Polls show that the public is increasingly disgusted by what they see as media bias and inaccuracies. Two polls conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs and Louis Harris in 1996 and 1997 found that:

  • 44% of the public thinks that the media is often inaccurate;
  • 74% see the media as politically biased;
  • 43% consider the media liberally biased;
  • 63% believe media coverage of the news is one-sided;
  • 50% believe that libel laws should be changed to make it easier to sue the media for inaccurate or biased reporting;
  • 70% believe that courts should be allowed to impose fines on the news media for inaccurate or biased reporting; and
  • 52% think that the media abuses its First Amendment freedom of the press.

When the media talking heads get into full swing with their hate-filled tirades against all things conservative, no longer constrained by any FCC rules, when programming directors create and air increasingly distorted "Specials" attacking traditional American values in general, and conservatives in particular, public disgust will grow exponentially. And because of their narrow-minded arrogance, these media elitists will not be able to comprehend that it is their lies, their biased editorializing in the guise of news, and their left-wing extremism, that people object to.

They will conclude that we idiots in the public just don't "get it", and they will only intensify their attacks until we do "get it". The true face of the media — and its routine abuse of its precious Constitutional protection — will be revealed for even the most obstinate to see. The FCC action and the D.C. appeals court decision were correct and overdue, because no federal agency has any right, under the constraints of the First Amendment, regulating political speech at all.

The above article is the property of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his permission.
Contact him prior to reproducing.

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15 oct 2000