Monday, January 26, 2009

Something rotten

According to Marcellus (in Shakespeare's Hamlet), something is rotten in Denmark. Maybe. But to me it seems like the smell is coming from Washington, DC.

According to current news reports, the President has warned Republicans that they need to quit listening to talk-show host Rush Limbaugh "if they want to get things done". Now that can be spun into several different garments, but I hate to hear that kind of rhetoric at a time when some Democrats in Congress are speaking of reviving the so-called "Fairness Doctrine". Last year, then candidate Barack Obama's press secretary wrote that the Senator "does not support re-imposing the Fairness Doctrine." I suppose time will tell.

Under the "fairness doctrine" the FCC required broadcasters to present "controversial issues of public importance" in a fair and balanced manner. Who could complain about that? Free speech advocates, that's who! Broadcasters were required to provide time for opposing viewpoints. In practice, for example, a Christian radio station, existing expressly to provide information and inspiration from a Christian viewpoint might be required to give time to an anti-Christian viewpoint on "controversial issues of public importance". More likely, in practical terms, if push comes to shove this will result in stations avoiding the requirements to broadcast specific opposing views by nixing both sides.

The concern, at least on one side, is demonstrated in Steve Rendall's article The Fairness Doctrine: How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back. "Hidden" near the bottom is what I believe is the true "problem" (fear). Rendall writes, "The most extreme change has been in the immense volume of unanswered conservative opinion heard on the airwaves, especially on talk radio. Nationally, virtually all of the leading political talkshow hosts are right-wingers...The same goes for local talkshows." Too bad the average talk-show listener, for whatever reason, prefers to listen to the conservatives. Let's be "fair" and put some talkers on the air whom listeners don't want to listen to! Again, the practical effect will not be the hearing of both sides, but the muting of both sides. But I am sure that will pass the test for the proponents of the (un)fairness doctrine.

And finally, seemingly unrelated, what's up with the continual blaring of and barking about the TV digital converter box change? It seems one can't turn on the TV without a politician or someone else in a commercial warning of the change from analogue to digital, or else something scrolling across the TV about it. Supposedly by February 17 of this year, all television stations will broadcast in digital only -- though Democrats in the Senate have introduced a bill to delay the transition from February to June. Who cares? Oh, but "the elderly and the rural poor" will be without a converter box and unable to receive any TV broadcasting. Senator Jay Rockefeller says, "We risk leaving those who are most reliant on over-the-air broadcast television for their information literally in the dark." If they are left in the dark, perhaps they want to be. It won't be because they haven't seen the change mentioned on their TV's. (Perhaps they're not watching them.)

I'm a generally trusting sort of guy, but have become quite cynical when it comes to our Federal government. What are you guys doing? Why are you so concerned? Are you putting something in that little box? Shades of 1984? If you're really all that concerned, why not buy some converter boxes, throw them in the back of your limo, and start bringing them around to us? Oh, never mind. Just stay away from us and leave us alone. If you could just do that, we'd appreciate it.

No comments: