In 1787 the representatives of the States wanted to protect the freedom of individual citizens, and also have a strong and fair national hovernment. They accomplished this at the time by creating three separate branches of government, the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. This is outlined in the first three articles of the Constitution.
Over 200 years later, the system to do this is still in place, and it has worked well in the past. With the advent of television, citizens had an opportunity to see candidates on television, with the majority of the coverage prior to the election itself going to incumbents.
This situation has been distorted by the 1996 re-write of the communications act which has allowed and encouraged “consolidated” television production and content distribution through a variety of systems; broadcast, cable and satellite. What had been at least a reasonable number of “voices” with a future full of hope for even more voices, has become a “for profit machinery”, gobbling up our media diversity, and speaking with its own “for profit voice”.
Our system no longer works as well as it did in the past, and I think that it is broken. Yes we still have the three branches of government, but the “COMPLIANT AND CONSOLIDATED” television media primarily exposes the Executive and Legislative branches and their opinions to the public, WITHOUT EDITORIAL COMMENT, or equal time devoted to opposing views. They no longer provide investigative documentaries, or challenge the government in any way. These consolidated organizations have become the de-facto fourth branch of government, used by the government to insure its incumbency.
Suppose we could convene a meeting with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and other signatories to the constitution and we tell them about what has gone on in the last couple of hundred years. They are particularly fascinated by television, and we review things such as the Presidential debates, and all of the other relevant television that takes place during the coverage of our electoral process.
After spending several weeks on the review, Jefferson asks: “So how is this television controlled, and more importantly “Who owns it,” and Jefferson is shocked to learn that it is controlled by part of the executive branch (the FCC) and owned by industrial giants such as The General Electric Company, Viacom, News Corporation, and lest we forget, the Walt Disney Company. Adams asks: “How do opposing views reach the public, or do they in fact reach the public?” Jefferson asks: “If news content is delivered by four networks, and that cable news is primarily delivered by the same companies that deliver broadcast news, do you think that the system is fair?”
While I am speculating, I think that if our founders were around and in control of the process, they would support true “press freedom” and not allow the “media” to consolidate. How can these “giants” be in conflict with the Government that they need in order to continue to get bigger and more profitable?
This is my sophomoric solution to the problem that can’t possibly happen:
Our new law would allow ownership of one television station, or one radio station, or one cable network, or one Cable system, or one satellite system. Networks, they are fine, but they as well as satellite systems must not own the delivery system and the content that they carry. Own all of the print you wish. If this would serve to benefit the public interest, why shouldn’t we have it?
Perhaps “the founders” would have formed a “fourth” branch of Government, an independent and elected (not appointed) “Media Department” (or FCC) to keep the diverse system alive and vibrant, and not under the control of the Executive or the Congressional branches.
Of course this can’t happen, but it would be nice to think about. Media should serve the public, and be as diverse as possible, and not be designed to serve the interests of News Corp, or any other company.
MEDIA IS DIFFERRENT!