After the last few weeks of even-more-poisonous rhetoric than usual from right-wing cable and talk radio, we need to talk.
More specifically, we should talk about pulling local radio-station licenses, plus other effective and practical measures of attacking the real problem -- the right-wing media malice machine.
Writing your Congressperson and Senator and the White House supporting the public option is great. But there are other ways of attacking the underlying problem -- disinformation and outrageous lies in the media that influence such important policy decisions.
And it's time to talk also about pressuring local cable licensees to consider pulling Fox News from their cable lineups as a condition of renewal. (See below) Obama's vast army of supporters can also play media hardball. Here are two more ways:
One: By taking careful note of exactly who advertises on both right-wing radio and on Fox News -- NOT just on race-baiter Glenn Beck's carnival show, but on the whole network in all dayparts. These advertisers need to hear from you about their subsidizing outrageous lies, fearmongering and, of course, racism.
Two: By pressuring the reconstituted FCC about bringing back the prudent and sane Fairness Doctrine, which required holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance -- and to do so in a manner that was (in the Commission's view) honest, equitable and balanced.
This sounds reasonable, right? The rule, introduced in 1949, was upheld by the Supreme Court 20 years later. But an FCC majority appointed by -- surprise! -- Ronald Reagan -- unwisely (if predictably) dropped it in 1987 under the pretext of "deregulation."
This opened the door for extreme right-wing radio, and allowed hatemongers like Michael "Weenie" Savage, Rush "Boss" Limbaugh, and Sean "Gumby" Hannity to spew poison and to motivate their hateful, fearful listeners to show up at town-hall meetings and disrupt them, among many other public indecencies.
As mentioned at the top:
The FCC used to pull radio-station licenses when a station was not operating in the public interest. You can still technically pursue this remedy and challenge a broadcast license in your area when it's up for renewal.
Today, sadly, broadcast licenses are seen, thanks largely to the FCC's "benign neglect," by their holders as inviolable. When I once mentioned the still technically correct term "the public airwaves" to one radio and TV licensee in San Francisco, he laughed out loud.
Bad reporter! MY license! Bad! Bad!
Here's how the Fairness Doctrine used to work:
I've covered radio and TV for decades for four major newspapers, and when I'd write an unfavorable column about a local radio personality -- which was often -- he'd sometimes go on the air, rant and say unflattering things -- OK, slander -- yours truly. It happened a lot.
Then, not long after, I'd get a Fairness Doctrine notice from the radio station giving me the opportunity to rebut what was said about me. Sounds reasonable and fair, doesn't it? It was. (Note: In almost every case, I declined, knowing I'd be playing on the announcer's home turf).
Did anyone else notice all the screaming by Boss Limbaugh and the right wing media that started almost immediately after Barack Obama was elected, warning us that the Fairness Doctrine would be repealed and it would ruin radio?
Here's a little secret: The return of the Fairness Doctrine is right-wing hate radio's Achilles Heel.
When the Obama administration then made assurances this wouldn't happen - an unwise move, to appease -- the screaming abated.
Now, after what Reichstag Radio ("Sieg Heil on Your Dial") has done, again using its Fairness Doctrine immunity to spread poison and to knowingly promulgate outrageous lies about Obama and health care, it's time for Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration to fight back.
It's long past time for the FCC to open hearings on bringing back the Fairness Doctrine -- and to take testimony about exactly how it has been abused since being lifted -- actually, even the idea of fairness has been openly mocked.
Now to Fox Noise, which has openly encouraged liars and town-hall disrupters: You can contact your city officials and tell them when their cable provider's contract comes up for renewal, Fox News should not be in their lineup. Find out when that renewal is set to be considered by city council. A cable operator can choose to drop any satellite channel it wishes.
The right will, of course, scream (as it always does) and call this censorship.
I call it taking away privileges for bad, even reckless behavior. It's also a way to inspire some restraint and decency (and a civil tone) to the public airwaves. (The latter is another "socialist" idea adopted when the FCC was formed).
We need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine almost as badly as we need serious campaign-finance reform. But, as I've laid out, there are other avenues to justice and sanity in the media by using your government to fight back.