What's Wrong with US Media?
by Sandwich Repairman, Fri Feb 27, 2009 at 08:45:58 AM EST
I knew NPR would be the only reliable news outlet airing President Obama's speech (presumably C-SPAN if you have cable). This is a critical, extremely important speech, finally ending a war that has consumed our minds, taxes, lives, and moral standing around the world for over 6 years. I think it lasted about 35 minutes. President Obama is telling us the new course he's setting us on in Iraq. But if you had your TV on in "liberal" Seattle during the speech, you were offered these programming choices by the broadcast channels:
KOMO 4 (ABC)- "Special Report" coverage of part of Obama's speech
KING 5 (NBC) - Today show
KIRO 7 (CBS) - game show
KCTS 9 (PBS) - kids' programming
KCTS 9.2 (PBS) - Spanish language programming
KCTS 9.3 (PBS) - sewing crafts
KSTW 11 (CW) - Divorce Court
KCPQ 13 (FOX) - Maury Povich
KONG 16 (NBC) - religious programming from Pat Robertson's network
KMYQ 22 (FOX) - Cristina's Court
KUOW 94.9 FM (NPR) - complete, uninterrupted, live coverage of the speech
Does public media cover serious news better than private media? Our PBS station has 3 digital channels, none of which covered the speech. Children's programming is noble, wonderful, and necessary. Likewise Spanish programming in a region where it's the 2nd language and it's the only television available in Spanish. But are sewing crafts more important?
Does radio do a better job covering important events than TV? There are more radio than TV stations by far (around 26 on our FM dial), probably two of which in Seattle (the NPR ones) are covering the speech. But if you want to hear everything the President has to say, radio--not TV--is where you have to go to get it. Of course, there is the internet, and I'm sure whitehouse.gov and other sites streamed the speech live. But what if your internet connection is out, or you're away from a computer, or so many people are watching that it keeps hiccuping and rebuffering?
We deserve better than this. We, the people, own the airwaves. That was a landmark, foresighted decision we made 75 years ago. Broadcasters borrow them from us, through the FCC, under laws obligating them to use them in the public interest. Not to sensationalize and appeal to our basest instincts in pursuit of maximum profits. Maury Povich? TWO idiotic court shows?? Right wing religious programming?!? If broadcasters fail to use the airwaves to serve the public interest, they are supposed to lose their licenses in favor of broadcasters who will. But tragically, this part of the Communications Act of 1934 has never really been enforced--our government has failed us.
Obama said in his inaugural address that "it's time to put away childish things". I think that includes the selfish, sensationalistic, destructive abuse of our public airwaves. This new era of responsibility requires those with stewardship over them to use them to educate, inform, and enlighten us; not pander to the lowest common denominator to pursue maximum profits. We need news, analysis, and thoughtful discussion; not Jerry Springer. It's time for the White House and Congress to stop looking the other way in favor of big, corporate media interests. It's time for the FCC to, finally, seriously enforce the public interest requirements on broadcasters. And it's up to us to make the President, Congress, and the FCC do the job they're supposed to.