Part Two Of The Five Part Series-Don't Be Upset With Us, At Least We're Not Republicans!
Examining the actual role of the Democratic Party In post Reagan America.
Let's take a look at the role today's broadcast media plays in the success or failure of a candidate's political campaign. Politicians are addicted to campaign ads. They need to run tons of ads and have friendly PACs and thinly veiled, corporately funded, issue oriented pressure groups run ads that help them advance their campaign. Translation, he who runs the most ads or has that done for him usually wins. This takes money: To quote Max Bialystock in the classic Mel Brooks comedy film, The Producers, "money is honey". To quote the great philosopher Jack Wade, "In today's America, bucks buy ballots".
I'm not saying that our politicians have always needed to finance major TV and Radio advertising campaigns to the extent they are today, I am saying that certain changes in the basic structure of the American broadcast media make that essential to any campaign. Prior to the Reagan administration and it's passion for deregulating government agencies that protect the public interest, the FCC was a model government agency. FCC regulations made sense and were there to protect the public's interest. The regulations regarded the broadcast spectrum (TV channels and radio frequencies) as being a natural resource, owned by the American public. An FCC license wasn't a corporate right, it was a privilege to be earned by proving that you can operate the station, to quote the radio act of 1927 and the communications act of 1934, "in the public interest, convenience and necessity". A corporation or individual got to keep that station license as long as they could prove that they were good stewards of a valuable public resource.
The FCC protected the public interest in inumerable ways, here are a few :
The Fairness Doctrine: This policy said that stations must dedicate some time to discussing issues that are devoted to the public interest and that stations must provide equal time for opposing viewpoints on controversial issues. The fairness doctrine was eliminated by a Reagan appointee to the FCC, Mark S. Fowler.
Technical guidelines: Rules that required stations to have a licensed chief engineer were eliminated under Reagan regulatory appointees. The station owners became responsible for technical standards or lack thereof.
Station Ownership: The number of TV stations an entity could own was expanded under Reagan. This was nothing compared to the changes that took place to TV and Radio under Bill Clinton. I like to call him Reagan to the 10th power.
Cable was deregulated in many ways under Reagan!
What we are now left with is a broadcast media that is owned by a few corporate entities. Local radio is usually either an automated music format or worse, a syndicated right wing talk show. A couple of right wing talk shows seem to pop up in every town in the country, like a fast food franchise. Do you think there's a corporate agenda involved? The sad thing is that "our" candidates did nothing to reverse this. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, Bill Clinton did more to turn our broadcast spectrum over to corporate interests than any Republican. Changes made to regulations on his watch have station licenses auctioned off to the highest bidder. I've devoted an entire installment to him in this series.
Individual votes no longer matter. Wholesale votes, the kind that are delivered by an effective television and radio advertising campaign are all important. The broadcast media has become a King and Queen maker for hire. As previously noted, he or she who has the most bucks wins! Guess where they get the bucks to run ads? This situation jeopardizes our very existence as a democracy! We can and must fix this!
Next: Part Three, Bill Clinton Saw The Thousand Points of Light!