FCC must con­front net­work ob­scen­ity and dis­torted news

South Florida Times - - OPINION - CLARENCE MCKEE

As a former com­mu­ni­ca­tions at­tor­ney at the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Commission (FCC) and le­gal as­sis­tant to two Com­mis­sion­ers, I have the great­est re­spect for our na­tion’s broad­cast reg­u­la­tory scheme and the FCC’s man­date to reg­u­late broad­cast­ing con­sis­tent with the "pub­lic in­ter­est, con­ve­nience, and ne­ces­sity."

In that re­gard, I was pleased to see Trump’s FCC Chair­man Ajit Pai’s re­ac­tion to CBS’s Stephen Col­bert’s vul­gar and ob­scene ho­mo­pho­bic joke about Pres­i­dent Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

Pai said “…we are go­ing to take the facts that we find and we are go­ing to ap­ply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion.”

Let’s hope the FCC does take the "ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion!"

As far as I am con­cerned, Col­bert’s joke was nei­ther in­de­cent nor pro­fane — it was ob­scene!

In case CBS and Col­bert did not know it, the FCC’s own Con­sumer Guide states that "broad­cast­ing of ob­scene ma­te­rial at any time of day is not pro­tected by the First Amend­ment."

In re­turn for the priv­i­lege of be­ing li­censed as broad­cast li­censees, broad­cast­ers, in­clud­ing the owned and op­er­ated tele­vi­sion sta­tions and lo­cal af­fil­i­ates of the three ma­jor broad­cast tele­vi­sion net­works, serve as trus­tees for the pub­lic in­ter­est.

Since broad­cast­ing an ob­scen­ity is cer­tainly not in the pub­lic in­ter­est and vi­o­lates a broad­cast li­censee’s duty to be a pub­lic trustee, it could be ar­gued that those CBS af­fil­i­ates and owned and op­er­ated sta­tions that broad­cast his ob­scene joke vi­o­lated that trust. The ques­tion is how many com­plaints have or will be filed against not only the net­work, but any of the sta­tions that broad­cast the ob­scen­ity?

Broad­cast­ing an ob­scen­ity is cer­tainly a vi­o­la­tion of the pub­lic trust!

The ques­tion to be asked is whether a broad­cast net­work whose news cov­er­age pur­posely and con­sis­tently is one sided, dis­torted and un­bal­anced is also vi­o­lat­ing the pub­lic trust?

Un­like news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, broad­cast­ers have an af­fir­ma­tive statu­tory and reg­u­la­tory obli­ga­tion to serve the pub­lic in­ter­est.

When it comes to cov­er­age of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, the ev­i­dence clearly shows that the three broad­cast net­works — utiliz­ing their owned and op­er­ated sta­tions and af­fil­i­ates — are giv­ing the pub­lic bi­ased, slanted and what could be called "rigged" news cov­er­age.

Per­haps the best ev­i­dence of such tele­vi­sion net­work bias and slant­ing of the news was clearly set forth by the Me­dia Re­search Cen­ter’s L. Brent Bozell and Tim Gra­ham in an April 26 com­men­tary in CNS.com, "Trump’s 100 Days of Me­dia Hos­til­ity."

They graph­i­cally pointed out tele­vi­sion net­work bias against the pres­i­dent: "In the first 98 days of Trump's pres­i­dency (there was) 89 per­cent neg­a­tive cov­er­age."

They went on to say that the "net­works cen­tered their sto­ries not on‘news’but on what they find most ob­jec­tion­able about Trump" point­ing out that cov­er­age on the im­mi­gra­tion travel ban is­sue was "93 per­cent neg­a­tive;" as was the case with the Rus­sia-Trump staff co­or­di­na­tion story which re­ceived "97 per­cent neg­a­tive cov­er­age." Most re­veal­ing were their ob­ser­va­tions on net­work news an­chors: "Net­work news an­chors have pre­sented Pres­i­dent Trump as a ter­ri­ble liar, and for good mea­sure, as po­ten­tially men­tally ill." The ques­tion is have the main­stream tele­vi­sion net­works, and by as­so­ci­a­tion, their owned and op­er­ated and af­fil­i­ated sta­tions, which carry such dis­torted news to the pub­lic, so vi­o­lated the pub­lic trust and low­ered them­selves into the gut­ter of po­lit­i­cal bias, that they are no longer serv­ing the pub­lic in­ter­est and do not de­serve to be “pub­lic trus­tees” of the air­waves? Bozell and Gra­ham call the treat­ment ofTrump a “shame­less and bit­ter par­ti­san ex­er­cise.” They are right! Is this one-sided cov­er­age in the pub­lic in­ter­est?

Is pre­tend­ing to be un­bi­ased yet slant­ing the news and ad­vo­cat­ing a po­lit­i­cal view­point by cer­tain tele­vi­sion news or­ga­ni­za­tions, their an­chors, and some re­porters in the pub­lic in­ter­est?

Although the FCC can’t in­ter­fere with broad­cast­ers’ news or com­men­tary judge­ment,its Con­sumer Guide states that“as pub­lic trus­tees, broad­cast­ers may not in­ten­tion­ally dis­tort the news” and that the FCC has pub­li­cally stated that "rig­ging or slant­ing the news is a most heinous act against the pub­lic in­ter­est."

So where are the con­ser­va­tive groups pe­ti­tion­ing or com­plain­ing to the FCC about such anti-pub­lic in­ter­est con­duct? Let’s see if con­ser­va­tive watch­dog groups fol­low through and ask Trump’s FCC to crack down on ob­scen­ity and the slant­ing and dis­tor­tion of news to the Amer­i­can pub­lic.

There were so many flash points made about An­drew Jack­son last week, and ad­mit­tedly, I didn’t know much about him. At least, noth­ing good. I was cu­ri­ous about the man, his pres­i­dency and why Trump might be so en­am­ored of him.

I knew there was more pub­lished ma­te­rial and read­able re­search out there to feed my rest­less pur­suit of the real Amer­i­can his­tory, and eureka, I’ve found it!

"White Trash: The 400 Year Un­told His­tory of Class in Amer­ica," by Nancy Isen­berg, was pub­lished in 2016, with a new pref­ace writ­ten af­ter the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump. Ms. Isen­berg is the T. Henry Williams Pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can His­tory at Louisiana State Univer­sity. Her well-writ­ten book has given me a new out­look.

Now, if only ev­ery­one had this book. But alas, the schol­arly tome weighs in at 321 pages, and an ad­di­tional 127 pages of notes.

Although weighty, the con­tents have filled in many blanks for me.

Right off the bat, in the new pref­ace, Ms. Isen­berg states re: the 2016 elec­tion,“it was class all the way.”

Class ma­nip­u­la­tions have been part of the elec­toral process for cen­turies, and dur­ing this past elec­tion, we got a con­stant view of how that works via tele­vi­sion, Face­book, Twit­ter, et al.

But first, a con­fes­sion: I am an Amer­i­can, there­fore, since child­hood, I have been taught to be bi­ased against cer­tain folk; show more pref­er­ence to my own, but, to be­have po­litely in pub­lic to­ward all.

I fur­ther con­fess that I have al­ways been aware of lesser-than white folk. They were abundant through­out the parts of the south where I grew up (South Florida), and where my dad’s peo­ple pi­o­neered: South Carolina. We used pe­jo­ra­tive terms to de­scribe them; I am not proud of that. But I never knew ‘why’ they were so poor, or that, how his­tor­i­cally, this Coun­try’s poli­cies, cer­tain leg­is­la­tion, and the gen­eral pe­cu­liarly neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes to­ward this group of whites was based on how they were treated back in Europe.

I al­ways thought that if you were white in Amer­ica, you had an ad­van­tage built into your skin. Not!

The White Trash in her book were Eng­land’s waste, ex­pend­ables.They were sent to this new coun­try to be used up, worked to death, and, if they sur­vived, left to their own ‘folk­ways.’ Lit­er­ally, no one cared for their wel­fare, and the pre­vail­ing at­ti­tude was that they should just go off - to the hills, to the back al­leys, to hov­els, to eat mud, and die.

Some­times even con­sid­ered a dif­fer­ent

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