This “Fairness Doctrine” requirement was intended to protect the public from the possibility of moneyed interests buying up all of the information sources, leaving the public hearing only their viewpoint.
I think that this may be an opportunity – if done right – to reintroduce the public to the idea of the commons: that the public owns the resources of the country, and the laws, and has the power to tell corporations what to do instead of the other way around. If we can project that into the discussion, it leads straight to a discussion of the tight concentration of ownership of the media by a few corporations. What better issues than something called “Fairness” and that so clearly can be demonstrated. There just are no voices of labor and other non- corporate opinions on the airwaves. The public is ready to hear that.
The demise of the Fairness Doctrine paved the way for this media consolidation, because issues around media consolidation were no longer discussed in the media. And that’s the problem now, as well, because it will be very difficult to get a good, honest, all-sides discussion of the commons and the Fairness Doctrine and media consolidation started — because of media consolidation and lack of a Fairness Doctrine.
So do we let the corporations just win this? Reagan unilaterally scrapped public control of the airwaves, vetoed it when Congress voted to bring it back, and then the Republicans filibustered the majority in following years every time the Congress tried again. Does that mean the Congress should stop trying and we should all just let the matter drop, and leave the public thinking that corporations have the right to control the airwaves?
Or does renewing the fight revive public discussion and understanding of these issues, leading to increased understanding of the need for Net Neutrality so big corporations can’t just block the public from even seeing union and progressive websites?
So I think reviving this fight is strategic, preparing the public for upcoming fights on all issues of public vs corporate control of public resources and decision-making. In 96 I wrote,
Restoring the Fairness Doctrine would open up America’s “marketplace of ideas.” It would help to restore civility to our public discourse. It would help restore our democracy.
I say it is time to restore the Fairness doctrine.
I’ve just finished a very interesting book, Capitalism 3.0, A Guide To Reclaiming The Commons, by Peter Barnes. The book talks about ways we can restructure our laws and rules of ownership to cover who should pay for polluting and other harmful things — costs that our current system ignores and even encourages. The change is based on our realizing that we all own certain things in common.
Here’s a quick way to understand the ideas in this book:
Suppose you live next door to a sawmill operation. The owner makes lots of money, but aa waste product, sawdust, is building up on his lot. This big pile of sawdust is getting bigger and bigger, and it’s getting to the point that he’s going to have to shut down his profitable operation if he can’t find some place to dump some sawdust. So one day he comes to you and asks if he can dump some sawdust in your back yard. You answer, “If you give me $25,000 a year, each year you can dump 5 truckloads, but no more, in my yard.” You are $25,000 richer, you limited the sawdust to a level you could tolerate, and the sawmill can continue to operate and make money.
This happened because you “own” that property and have the “right” to refuse to let others make money by dumping their waste in it – or to negotiate for some of the resulting profits. This sounds so basic – but there is a reason I put quotes around the words “own” and “right.” The concepts of ownership and rights only exist because they are granted to us by law, and laws are nothing more than creations of government. It didn’t used to be that way, that regular people could “own” things and have “property rights,” but people thought it would be a good idea, and made it happen. And in America it is set up that we can do things like that because, guess what, WE’re the government. (It says that in our Constitution.) More on this later.
Calling people “Communists” is back in style… In this case, people who talk about “The Commons” or “Common Good” are “Socialists.” Others call them “collectivists.” (?!)
Fine with me. I believe we’re all in this together. I believe that people sticking up for each other and watching out for each other is a better approach to life than the conservative “on your own” and “everyone out for themselves” and “get what you can and screw everyone else” approach. Moral values, and all that…
Go read this silly post: GOP Bloggers :: If It Walks Like a Socialist and Quacks Like a Socialist