Should the FCC Silence the Noise?

Official photograph of Jay Rockefeller, U.S. S...

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) voiced a criticism today of partisan cable TV. “There’s a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to FOX and to MSNBC: ‘Out. Off. End. Goodbye.’,” he said. “It would be a big favor to political discourse; our ability to do our work here in Congress, and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly, in their future.”

This comes, of course, hot on the heels of Jon Stewart’s enormous and successful Rally to Restore Sanity.

Some commentators have voiced frustration at Sen. Rockefeller’s comparison of FOX to MSNBC, as if the two of them are equally guilty of partisan hyperbole. Others have questioned the Senator’s implication that perhaps our elected representatives can’t “do our work here” with commentary in the background.

Is this an attempt to squeeze out free speech, or is it a plea for more rational discourse? Is it time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine? Does the far right’s undeniable dominance of talk radio, coupled with the obsequious toadying of the main stream media during the Bush years, mean that both sides need a muzzle? Is this another example of a spineless Democrat refusing to stand up for Progressive principles, in favor of trying to appear even-handed?

What are your thoughts?

Related Video

See Jay Rockefeller here. (Real Clear Politics)


About dcpetterson

D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He lives with his wife, two dogs, a cat, and two lizards, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts for fun.
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42 Responses to Should the FCC Silence the Noise?

  1. drfunguy says:

    My general response is that the answer to the excesses of free speech is: more free speech. It is unfortunate that those with the most money get the biggest megaphone. It is even more unfortunate that so-called news organizations can lie with impunity and have long lost any ability to self-regulate by disclosing conflicts of interest. Fox is by far the worst in the US here, for example but Kissinger was on mainstream TV for years commenting on China policy without disclosing his financial interest in promoting certain points of view. There are many other examples of failing to disclose conflicts but I am pretty sure that we have never had a situation like the present one where most of the potential presidential candidates are actually employed by a network.
    Despite the unfortunate problems mentioned above I can think of only one cure that isn’t worse than the disease. Citizens must educate themselves. However, most take the easy route and parrot what they hear elsewhere rather that actually researching the, admitedly complex, topic of media bias.

  2. dcpetterson says:

    drfunguy, I was able to tweak your link a little.

  3. robert verdi says:

    lets set up a commission that will insure Hollywood movies and TV devote 50% of their airtime to the Right, then we will mandate for every concert a popular musician does for a Democrat they must do one for a Republican. After that we will regulate the internet so only blogs that involve rational discourse with pre-determined facts established by the commission are used.

  4. Mainer says:

    Gee Robert I think they are already doing you one better. The two new movies one about Plame and Wilson and the one about Jack Abrams have tons of stuff about Republicans and the right. What more do you want?

    Robert has it ever struck you as odd that the Republicans have been whinnnnnnning 24/7 about how the media is against them waaaaaaaah…….just about the same lenght of time they have done every thing in their power to kill and prevent a reuse of any thing even close to the fairness doctrine. Now if you were actually taking it in the shorts from the media would you not want a level playing field? Unless maybe you already knew the whole waaaaaaaah the media is unfair schtick was well total and complete BS and what they really wanted is just their message getting out? Just seems odd to me.

  5. robert verdi says:

    Gee Mainer, I am not a sitting senator whining to shut down unacceptable media organizations.

  6. shrinkers says:

    Mainer, that is one excellent piece of insight.

    There is something wrong when someone is complaining about unfairness, and yet does everything in their power to avoid making things more fair. Hmmmm…..

  7. Mainer says:

    Robert if I read this right it looks to me as though the Senator is after loud on both ends. But doesn’t it make you curious why those feeling the most abused have been the biggest proponents to not fixing the problem. It just seems really really odd.

    Would you beleive that there is not one radio talk show available in Maine that isn’t conservative? I beleive that 9 out of ten in the country are conservative I will try to find the info on that as I could be off but if I am I would be willing to wager it would at best drop only to 8. How many progressive tv shows can you name? Then tell me the names of what are conservative shows? When only one voice is heard it stops being opinion and becomes fact regardless of how wrong or nontruthful it is and that Robert is potentially very very dangerous.

  8. Realist says:

    @robert verdi,

    I don’t see it as whining. It’s not unreasonable to wish that the shrill partisan stuff were silenced in favor of rational discussion. And it’s not even unreasonable to be public about it. There’s a big difference between that and demanding a violation of the First Amendment.

  9. drfunguy says:

    @dcpetterson thanks for fixing that.
    In those egs. below there are “”s. Should those be omitted, i.e. replaced with my text?

  10. robert verdi says:

    lets just say Rockefeller should have found something else to discuss.

  11. robert verdi says:

    realist,
    Shrill partisan stuff isn’t the exception to american history, its the norm.

  12. GROG says:

    @shrinkers,

    There is something wrong when someone is complaining about unfairness, and yet does everything in their power to avoid making things more fair. Hmmmm…..

    There’s a problem with your statement. You have a different definition of “fairness” than most. Your progressive definition of “making things more fair” means silencing opinions which differ from yours in order to bring those dissenting opinions down to a level which equals your opinion.

    The truth is that left leaning commentators have just as much right as right leaning commentators to apply for a license with the FCC and broadcast their opinions. The problem is that no one wants to listen to them so they fail.

    The suggestion that we muzzle free speech is dangerous. The Left already dominates nearly every aspect of public life in this country, from the public schools and academia to the entertainment industry and every other media venue, the big three networks, cable, public radio, public broadcasting, newspapers, etc.

    When conservatives needed a response to the left-leaning network TV stations and liberal PBS and CNN, Fox News was created, and now it regularly receives much higher ratings than its competitors. When conservatives wanted to compete with National Public Radio, conservative talk radio was created to meet that demand.

    This is still the United States of America, isn’t it? The land of the free and the home of the brave? (I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion.)

  13. Bart DePalma says:

    Why isn’t Rockefeller’s totalitarian day dream being roundly condemned by everyone here without reservation?

  14. shrinkers says:

    GROG,

    I don’t support Sen. Rockefeller’s idea. I don’t think you understand my position enough to have voiced your opinion on it.

    You said,
    Your progressive definition of “making things more fair” means silencing opinions which differ from yours in order to bring those dissenting opinions down to a level which equals your opinion.

    I don’t feel this way at all, and I would disagree with anyone who suggested such a thing.

  15. shrinkers says:

    Bart, on another thread, you said,
    “I know what is good for you rabble”

    So I suppose your solution is simply have you in charge, right? Why aren’t your totalitarian daydreams being roundly condemned by everyone in the country?

  16. GROG says:

    shrinkers,

    Then this statement puzzles me.

    ….and yet does everything in their power to avoid making things more fair.

    Who is doing “everything in their power to avoid making things more fair” as it relates to the Fairness Doctrine?

  17. Realist says:

    @robert verdi,
    Shrill partisan stuff isn’t the exception to american history, its the norm.
    That hardly makes it good. Peaceful transfer of power is the exception in human history, but I sure wouldn’t go advocating that the US go to the norm there.

  18. Bart DePalma says:

    shrinkers:

    Bart, on another thread, you said,“I know what is good for you rabble”

    That is a lie and you know it. The quote described Pelosi’s smile as she taunted the press by saying they would have to wait until Obamacare was enacted to find out what was in it.

    So I suppose your solution is simply have you in charge, right?

    My solution, as you well know, is for each of us to be in charge of our own lives. I have no interest whatsoever in running your life and only demand that you reciprocate.

    In any case, will you join me in condemning Rockefeller’s statement and demanding his immediate resignation? It is not enough to meekly mew: “I don’t agree.” Americans should have zero tolerance for this kind of totalitarianism.

  19. shrinkers says:

    GROG, do you imagine that the Fairness Doctrine “means silencing opinions which differ from yours”?

  20. drfunguy says:

    @ Grog
    I can’t believe anyone still takes seriously the lie that the left dominates mainstream media. One simple recent counter-example. “Newt Gingrich, despite not having held any position in government for over a decade, was the single most frequent guest on “Meet the Press” in 2009 of any political figure in the United States” http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_12/021661.php
    In case you are wondering, number of appearances during that year by, the you know actual speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi – zero.
    See What Liberal Media? (whatliberalmedia.com) for a book-length discussion of the topic.

  21. shrinkers says:

    @Bart
    The quote described Pelosi’s smile as she taunted the press

    1) Are you denying that you wrote those words I quoted? I can point out where you wrote them, you know.

    2) Are you seriously suggesting that we should take your statement in context? You, who have displayed an absolute mastery at lifting statements out of their context and so misrepresenting them? Really?

    3) As for “taunting the press”, that is a lie and you know it. She wasn’t speaking to the press. There you go yet again, lifting something out of context so you can misrepresent it.

    Will I call for Jay Rockefeller’s resignation? For speaking his opinion? Of course not! I’m sorry, your totalitarian attitude is not what America is for, Bart. I believe Americans have the right to express themselves. You, apparently, do not.

    You want Rockefeller to resign — I didn’t hear you calling for the resignation of Michele Bachmann when she hearkened back to the McCarthy hearings in implying our government was full of people with “un-American” attitudes. Bart, do you really want a return to the McCarthy hearings? Is that what you’re about?

  22. Realist says:

    @Bart,
    Why isn’t Rockefeller’s totalitarian day dream being roundly condemned by everyone here without reservation?
    Because, while I don’t agree with the suggested method, I agree with the deeply underlying issue. I don’t think anyone here is going to advocate violating the First Amendment.

  23. Realist says:

    @Bart,

    Bart, on another thread, you said,“I know what is good for you rabble”
    That is a lie and you know it.

    No, it’s not. I saw it myself. You said those precise words.

  24. GROG says:

    @shrinkers,

    GROG, do you imagine that the Fairness Doctrine “means silencing opinions which differ from yours”?

    By definition the Fairness Doctrine would silence opinion. Radio stations would be forced to give equal airtime to right and left opinion. Leftwing radio has proven to be a failure. Stations are not going to air programs that lose money. Therefore in the name of being equal, they would be forced to drop rightwing programs, which of course is the current goal of the so called Fairness Doctrine.

  25. Monotreme says:

    We should post video of Bart saying “I know what is good for you rabble.”

    I bet he had an evil, condescending grin on his face as he typed it.

  26. shrinkers says:

    @GROG

    Interesting opinion on your part. Thank you for sharing that. Have you any actual evidence that rightwing radio stations would shut down or stop airing rightwing talk shows? Or are you projecting what you imagine is a possible outcome?

  27. Mainer says:

    Ah but when one hates progrssives more than they respect the truth it is hard to find middle ground. If you nitwits would just go pull even the Wiki run down on the Fairness Doctrine up and read it you might see what I was talking about. Oh by the way even the president has not been for putting it back but don’t let facts get in your way. It must be nice to have a cable news outlet run your political party. Why do I follow this and keep having flashes of the Spanish American War? Do we have any historians here?

  28. GROG says:

    @shrinkers,

    It’s obviously my opinion but believe me shrinkers, stations like KMOX in St. Louis are not going to attempt to air what some government bureaucrat deems to be equal and balanced opinion. They’re going to air what people want to listen to. They would just assume go to a country and western format.

    Btw, I seem to recall that here on 538 it’s acceptable to give an opinion masquerading as fact as long as it’s a prediction of something that will happen in the future.

  29. shrinkers says:

    Oh, I didn’t mind your opinion, GROG. I just wanted to know if you’d seen any actual, you, know, evidence. F’rinstance, has the owned of any station you know of said he’d shut it down if he had to air opinions he disagreed with? Something like that.

    It’s perfectly okay to give us your opinion of what you think will happen. But this doesn’t mean anyone else has to imagine that re-instituting the Fairness Doctrine “means silencing opinions which differ from yours”. I certainly don’t think it would have that effect. So, since I disagree with your premise (and you haven’t offered any evidence to support your premise), I also disagree with your conclusions.

    So again, to your original point — No, I don’t have any desire to “silence opinions which differ from mine.” Nor do I imagine that even something like the Fairness Doctrine would do that. By the way, you may note that I have not offered any opinion on whether the F.D. should be re-introduced or not.

  30. GROG says:

    shrinkers,

    You still haven’t answered my question from my post at 6:18 this morning.

  31. shrinkers says:

    GROG –

    I’m not sure I understood your question. You asked,

    Who is doing “everything in their power to avoid making things more fair” as it relates to the Fairness Doctrine?

    I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re asking here. Can you elaborate?

  32. GROG says:

    shriners said at 8:12 last night:

    There is something wrong when someone is complaining about unfairness, and yet does everything in their power to avoid making things more fair. Hmmmm…..

    I was wondering who is doing everything in their power to avoid making things more fair.

  33. shrinkers says:

    Ah. GROG, I refer you to Mainer’s comment November 18, 2010 at 7:34 pm, with which I was agreeing.

  34. GROG says:

    I know it was in reference to Mainer’s comment, but I still can’t figure out WHO is doing everything in their power to avoid making things more fair.

    It’s one thing to complain about unfairness. It’s another to pass legistlation that muzzles free speech.

  35. Mainer says:

    Grog, sorry I thought I had replied to you earlier but no idea where that went. My comment that you are refering to came after reading the Wiki piece on the Fairness Doctrine. It just struck me that the right had been going at it for about the same length of time that they had been complaining that the media was not fair to them. It just struck me as odd.

    Oh you will notice the president isn’t in favor of bringing it back either some Marxist he turns out to be. But I would bet that if he were to push hard enough against it that we could get more than enough Republicans to vote for it.

    My other comment was how in many areas there is no choice and no balance as it is all conservative all the time. One of the problems with the concentration of station ownership I suppose but it still gives a very skewed perception.

    Oh and just out of curiosity do any of you on the right actually see FOX as fair and balanced? No snark intended but I don’t know any on the left that would think so and damned few Indies that do. So would it be your perception that they are.

  36. Mainer says:

    Grog now I have a question who is trying to pass legislation to muzzle free speech? Did I miss some thing?

  37. GROG says:

    @Mainer,

    I think it’s interesting that Reagan ended the Fairness Doctrine before conservative radio took root. NPR dominated political talk radio at the time.

    And Fox News is absolutely just as fair and balanced as the network news channels, CNN, and MSNBC. You have to seperate the opiners like Beck, Hannity, and O’Reilly from the news portion. (Vansustren and O’Reilly are certainly not rightwingers.)

    I think TV news outlets have been so over the top liberal for so long that it became the accepted norm. When a fair and balanced one finally came along, the perception to some was that it must have some rightwing bias.

    Others were so starved for some balanced reporting that Fox News quickly became the #1 news outlet.

  38. shortchain says:

    GROG,

    Thanks. I needed some humor. Fox = “fair and balanced”. Riiiiight.

  39. Mainer says:

    Thanks Grog, kind of what I suspected. Would you then equate NPR with FOX, just on different ends of the spectrum? And would I read your last to be that FOX is fair and balanced where NPR and god forbid MSNBC isn’t?

    Actually Reagan was not in favor of ending the Fairness Doctrine but some of his early neocon advisors were and that is the way it went.

  40. drfunguy says:

    So, O’Reilly is not right wing:
    “I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out, and I wouldn’t have rescued them.” Bill O’Reilly
    Below are a number of false claims by BillO as documented on Media Matters.

    This stuff took me less than five minutes to find Grog.
    On the other hand if you think BillO is not a winger, that could explain why you think that Fox is “Fair and Balanced.
    By the way if they are so balanced, why do they pay 4 (or more) likely Republican presidential candidates to be commentators and no Dems?
    Over $60 million worth of free air time for Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich, etc. Real balanced.

    http://mediamatters.org/research/201007270009
    O’Reilly falsely claimed New Black Panthers were “standing in front of a polling place and saying they want to kill white babies.” O’Reilly attacked the mainstream media for failing to cover the New Black Panthers case, which he described as “guys with batons standing in front of a polling place and saying they want to kill white babies.” In fact, the hate speech to which he referred is from video produced prior to Election Day.

    O’Reilly falsely claimed Houston, San Francisco are “sanctuary cities” that are breaking the law. On the July 19 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly falsely claimed that San Francisco and Houston are “sanctuary cities” that are violating federal law. In fact, O’Reilly has misconstrued the law’s requirements, and the Bush administration’s Justice Department concluded that Houston and San Francisco are not violating the applicable laws that do exist.

    O’Reilly declared it was “fiction” that the stimulus created jobs. On July 13, O’Reilly declared it was “fiction” that the stimulus created jobs. In fact, as Media Matters has noted, the stimulus has been estimated by both the White House and independent analysts to have increased employment by about 2 million jobs relative to a baseline estimate of what jobs levels would have been without the stimulus.

    O’Reilly falsely claims ICE official Hurtt “refused to enforce federal immigration law.” On June 25, O’Reilly claimed that Obama “has appointed a sanctuary city supporter as a liaison” between the federal government and the states on the issue of illegal immigration. O’Reilly falsely claimed that Harold Hurtt “refused to enforce federal immigration law” while he served as Houston police chief. In fact, Houston is not a “sanctuary city” and was not one when Hurtt was police chief. Indeed, Houston cooperated with ICE when Hurtt was serving as police chief.

  41. GROG says:

    Sorry. I meant to say Hannity, Beck, and O’Reilly are right wingers and Vansustren and Giraldo are not. O’Reilly is definitely a right winger.

  42. drfunguy says:

    I really don’t know about Vansustren or Giraldo as I think TV news, especially cable, is a complete waste of time. US TV news that is, I occasionally watch CBC.
    But what about all of the Fox campaigning for the TP and the Republican Party?
    How can you call them Fair and Balanced when they promote one point of view so continuously?
    And again, if they are so balanced, why do they pay 4 (or more) likely Republican presidential candidates to be commentators and no Dems?
    Over $60 million worth of free air time for Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich, etc. Real balanced.

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