Rep. Hinchey: New bill would break up media monopolies and restore fairness doctrine
Warns media reform critical to prevent 'end of democratic republic'
Concerns about monopolies and fears of a possible "fascist" takeover of the US media have prompted a Democratic congressman to push to restore the Fairness Doctrine, RAW STORY has learned.
"Media reform is the most important issue confronting our democratic republic and the people of our country," Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) said at the Free Press National Media Reform Conference held in Memphis, Tennessee last weekend. "This is a critical moment in history that may determine the future of our country…maybe forever."
Hinchey told RAW STORY he plans to reintroduce the Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA) that would break up media monopolies and restore the Fairness Doctrine, which was eliminated by the Federal Communications Commission under the Reagan administration.
“If Rush shoots his mouth off, he must give equal access to our side,” Hinchey said. “The American public will begin to get both sides or all sides of an issue. That is basic – fundamental to a democracy.”
Last year, Hinchey introduced H.R. 3302 (MORA), but Republicans blocked the measure in committee. He also founded the Future of American Media Caucus in Congress in 2005. With Democrats now in control of Congress, a new media reform measure is expected to be assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee within the next couple of weeks, Hinchey’s staff confirmed.
“We’ll be trying hard to get the subcommittee and the full committee chairs to bring this to the House floor,” Hinchey pledged. A companion bill will be introduced on the Senate side by Bernie Sanders (D-VT), he added.
MORA would restore the Fairness Doctrine, reinstate a national cap on ownership of radio stations, lower the number of radio stations that one company can own in a local market, and reinstate the 25 percent national cap on television ownership, among other restrictions. The bill’s no-grandfathering provision would compel media conglomerates to divest to comply with new ownership limitations.
MORA would also require public interest reports from broadcasters and require more independently produced programming on TV. In addition, it establishes new public interest obligations to assure that broadcasters meet the needs of local communities and requires increased, sustained public input and outreach to give the people a voice in programming.
Media 'con job'
Hinchey faults the mainstream media for failing to tell Americans the truth about “an administration in Washington that has falsified information to people about weapons of mass destruction in order to justify an illegal and unjustified attack perpetrated on Iraq. How was it that Congress voted to give the President that authority? And how was it that so many people just bought into it when Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and whatever weapons they had were given to them by the Reagan administration?”
Talk radio has become dominated by shows that are “right wing, even neo-fascist,” he said, adding that even the best newspapers gave readers a “con job” by reporting false information fed by the administration.
“This should make every single citizen in America deeply concerned,” he told conference attendees. “What lies will they tell in the future to jeopardize this democratic republic or even end this democratic republic? That is the objective of many of those involved.”
Hinchey believes the takeover of the U.S. media has been carefully calculated by the “political right wing,” starting with the abolition in 1987 of the Fairness Doctrine, which was originally adopted in 1949 in reaction to the rise of global fascism prior to World War II.
“Fascist government dominated discussions in Europe. They could now broadcast all over and control all information going out. That’s how they took over governments in Spain and Italy,” Hinchey recalled. “The U.S. said the airways should be owned by everyone.”
The Fairness Doctrine required that broadcasters give equal time to people who wished to express an opposing viewpoint. “Under the Reagan administration, the FCC wiped out that rule and said only businesses that operate stations can express their view,” Hinchey noted. Congress passed a bill that would have required the FCC to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, but that bill was vetoed by Reagan.
“The veto said clearly that this is an idea from the political right wing because we do not want to allow other points of view – because if we allow free and open discussion on the environment, healthcare [and other issues], in almost every case the right wing will lose.”
Asked whether the Congressman believes there is now an attempt at a fascist takeover of the U.S., a Hinchey staffer noted that Rep. Hinchey’s legislation arose from his concern about increasing concentration of media ownership into the hands of a few individuals and corporations. “Whether or not there is a purpose that includes fascism, we could wind up in a fascist situation if corporations end up controlling information without the government providing some balancing mechanism, such as the Fairness Doctrine,” said the staffer, who spoke on background only and did not wish to be named. “He would also say that the FCC’s recent efforts to weaken media ownership rules in order to enable corporations to own more and more outlets plays into that as well.” . . .
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Restoring the Fairness Doctrine to Save the Republic
From Raw Story: