I’m not sure who is reading this, but Gary Allen is credited as the writer of the article.
If it comes as a great surprise for you to learn that the public airwaves are dominated by liberals and collectivists, my guess is that you are under 9 years of age, or you have been lost and wandering in the jungles of the Amazon for the past 30 years.
One national opinion poll indicates that 43% of the American people distrust television news programs, yet another recent poll revealed that 74% of Americans rely on the television networks as their major source of news.
The impact which television has had on our country over the past 25 years is hard to exaggerate. The average American now spends 20 hours a week in front of the set. Those who know better may gnash their teeth a good part of the time, but many soak up the propaganda like a sponge.
The power of television and the other mass media is simply awesome. Consider the Nixon case. While many Americans, both liberal and conservative, rejoiced when Richard Nixon was Watergated, it was certainly nothing to cheer about. A President of the United States was literally hounded from office by a lynch mob enraged by professional polemicists. The Eastern liberal establishment now knows that its mass media can dispatch to political Valhalla whomever it targets, and that should be nothing short of terrifying.
In a paper presented in September 1974 to the American Political Science Association, Dartmouth professor Jeffrey Hart noted that around 1960, “The mass media, especially the major networks but also the major dailies and weekly news magazines, acquired to a larger degree than ever before, the capacity to determine the focus of our public debate. This gives them a political leverage that may be superior to that of a variegated, and often ill-informed Congress. The key struggle on the frequent occasions when a centrist or a conservative occupies the White House will be between the President and the media, and it will be a contest over public opinion.”
The mass media now have such power, which they are able to apply selectively, that every president since John Kennedy could have been hounded from office or impeached. Johnson, Nixon, and Ford were hounded from office. Kennedy, beloved and protected by the mass media, was shot instead. Consider, however, what the assorted mastodons of the media might have done to him had they elected to try.
A spate of books has, this year, revealed that John F Kennedy had the morals of a sex-starved muskrat. This went unreported in the press at the time, despite the fact that the Washington press corps was well aware of it. In fact, so sure was Kennedy that the media would keep his affairs off the late-night news that he made little effort to hide his philandering. The excuse offered is that, unlike congressman Wayne Hayes, Kennedy had no need to put his paramours on the public payroll, and therefore his private life was none of anybody’s beeswax.
But, John Kennedy did put at least two of his sex partners on the payroll, as secretaries referred to by the Secret Service as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. These women accompanied Kennedy on his trips to satisfy his sexual appetite. And how does that differ in the slightest from the transgression of Wayne Hayes? More important, Kennedy spent so much time juggling his harem that it greatly cut into the performance of his duties as President. Policy decisions were deferred to Dean Rusk, Arthur Schlesinger, and the other new frontiersmen while the president played. Yet Huntley, Brinkley, and Cronkite behaved like the proverbial three monkeys.
Driving John F. Kennedy from office because of his constant adultery might have been justified, but it would have been like convicting Al Capone on income tax evasion. Just as forcing the resignation of Richard Nixon over Watergate was akin to hanging a man for chicken-stealing, our point is that the mass media, particularly the electronic media, have been permitted to become so powerful that they can pick and choose who goes to the gallows, and when.
Consider, for example, that Nelson Rockefeller was approved as vice president despite revelations during the confirmation hearings that he repeatedly gave large sums of money to public officials in positions to be of use to him. Most particularly, you will recall that when Henry Kissinger was dispatched from Rocky’s staff, to that of Richard Nixon, he was given a little going-away present of fifty thousand dollars. Since the Rockefeller family has investments and holdings in 125 separate nations, it was almost impossible for Henry to make a decision involving U.S. foreign policy that was not a potential, or actual, conflict of interest with those of the Rockefellers.
Imagine, here we were in the flood tide of Watergate, with everyone in the mass media clucking endlessly about corruption and government, then in a flood-lit Senate hearing room it is revealed that Nelson Rockefeller has given Henry Kissinger a little present of $50,000. Yet the revelation attracts no more attention than an elf sneezing in the middle of the Black Forest. Had the media dragons chosen to breathe fire on the situation, Rockefeller would never have been confirmed as our vice president and Kissinger would not have been Secretary of State. They would both have found themselves in the crowbar motel playing checkers between the steel slats.
Having caught two of the nation’s most important public figures in an out-and-out bribe, however, Walter Cronkite and the others gave Rocky and Henry a free pass. Only the cynical will leap to the conclusion that Rockefeller control through the Chase Manhattan Bank of the largest block of CBS shares, a whopping 14.1%, has anything at all to do with it.
Columnist Kevin Phillips noted at the time, “Nor are the other networks removed from the Rockefeller orbit. As of the same date, the Chase Bank controlled four-and-a-half percent of RCA, which is NBC, and 6.7% of ABC. If these are not decisive shareholdings, neither are they peanuts. The upshot is this: so far television’s investigative reporting, with respect to Nelson Rockefeller and possible vice-presidential conflicts of interest, has been one notch above invisible. Cathode crusaders willing to tear apart the holdings of people like Bebe Rebozo and Robert Abplanalp, are somehow less willing to tangle with the megabucks of Nelson A. and his family.”
Even the Honorable Phillips, you will note, shied away from calling a bribe a bribe. But what has a Republican administration done in the last eight years to expose and reduce the federally guaranteed monopoly of the electronic media? Dean Birch, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under Nixon, declared in testimony before a House Appropriations Subcommittee, “I suppose that we could have an inquiry into the news coverage of the United States but whether we should I guess is a different question.”
Birch said the FCC has for years talked about forcing a diversity of program sources but says, “Where it breaks down very candidly is in the fact that we say we are sorry over somebody having say an AM and FM in the same town because he might have undue influence in the town, or a television and a radio station. And yet, in the evening hours between 7:30 and 11:00, CBS has 209 stations. NBC has 216 and ABC has 187 stations, for all practical purposes. They don’t have ownership of them, but they have the programming rights.”
Representative Robert Giaimo, the Democrat from Connecticut, commented, “I am concerned with the fact that there are six or seven people in New York, on all three networks, who decide exactly what 100 million plus Americans are going to hear about. This bothers me because that is just as much censorship as if it were being done by some government official.”
Giaimo is right. One of the main features of the news which comes from the network is that it is filtered through, and controlled by, a small group of carefully selected producers and editors in New York City. The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, the NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor, and the ABC Reasoner Walters report, have a combined audience each night of more than 50 million viewers. The events to be covered, the storyline which will be followed, the correspondent reporting, and the editing of the story, are all tightly supervised from New York. And, as you know, they are almost always as nearly alike as the coverage in Time and Newsweek.
Dean Burke’s weak retort was that, “There is one control on that which I think is important, and that is, there are three of them, and they are highly competitive.” which is utterly ludicrous. The competition is between left, lefter and leftist, on the basis of which personality can attract the largest audience for nearly identical programming. And the top performers admit it. Longtime anchorman Howard K. Smith told TV Guide several years ago that Network bias is massive. Beginning with the political composition of the news staffs, which are virtually all liberal. By tradition said Smith Network journalists have, “a strong leftward bias. Our tradition since FDR has been leftward.”
There is no secret about any of this. Fred Freed of NBC confirmed to TV Guide “This generation of newsmen is a product of the New Deal. Those beliefs of the New Deal are the beliefs that news has grown on. This is true of the networks, of Newsweek, of the New York Times, of all media. Men of like mind are in the news. It is provincial. The blue and white collar people who are in revolt now do have cause for complaint against us. We’ve ignored their point of view. It’s bad. It’s bad to pretend that they don’t exist. We did this because we tend to be upper middle-class liberals.”
And the little clique of men in New York and Washington who determine what the 74% of the Americans relying on television as their primary source of news are going to see, do not even pretend to be objective. David Brinkley has said quite openly, “If I were objective, or if you were objective, or if anyone was, we would have to be put away somewhere in an institution because we’d be some sort of vegetable. Objectivity is impossible to a human being.” Later he declared, “News is what I say it is. It’s something worth knowing by my standards.”
Frank Reynolds of ABC put it this way, “I think your program has to reflect what your basic feelings are. I’ll plead guilty to that.” Bill Moyers entones, “Of all the myths of journalism, objectivity is the greatest.”
Johns Secondary of ABC comments, “It’s absolutely impossible to write a broadcast or put together pictures without having a point of view.”
Gerald Green of NBC declares, “It’s impossible not to have a point of view. Once you start selecting facts and choosing what and whom to put on the air. A point of view is implicit .”
Don Hewitt of CBS admits, “Of course, news documentaries do take a point of view. It has to be understood that personality has to come through.”
And Quincy Howe, a former president of the Association of radio and TV news analysts declares, “All news, presented on radio and TV, editorializes. The newscaster editorializes in what he emphasizes and what he plays down, in what he omits and what he includes.”
This bias creates enormous distortion, and that too is admitted. In 1968 after the nationwide protests over the role of television in encouraging race riots, several prominent network newsmen observed in TV Guide that network coverage was falsifying the picture of the nation.
Chet Huntley commented, “Our attention has been turned to the cities. That’s where the problems are. But, it is distorted. It doesn’t reflect the rest of the country. We’re ignoring the rest of America.”
And producer Bob Rogers of NBC said, “The responsible man, the productive man, the man without a chip on his shoulder, is the forgotten man. You hardly ever see him on TV. The imbalance in coverage is causing Americans to mistrust each other.”
And out of ABC, these words from Howard K. Smith, “TV news is not telling people the way life is. We’re giving the public a wholly negative picture on a medium so vivid that it damages morale with a bombardment of despair.”
So you see, they know what they are doing, and yet they do it anyway. In the words of Leopold Tyrmand, formerly at Columbia University and now a journalist, it is “the smell of despotism emanating from the media.”
Tyrmand’s observations appear in a brilliant article entitled “The Media Shangri-la”, published in the American Scholar for the fall of 1975. He charges that the national communications media have become totalitarian, in that the media regulator, public opinion, is the very thing the media shape. His argument is that the mass media are bent on eradicating dissent, and he warns that what they pass off as information, in fact, is completely arbitrary. They have adopted the totalitarian strategy by which lies and half-truths, repeated often enough, become accepted as true.
Cataloguing the list of network sins runs the gamut of public concerns, foreign and domestic. Just tiptoeing through the domestic tulips, the coverage given by the television news departments to such national issues as the right to keep and bear arms, forced busing, inflation crime, union power, welfare, and private enterprise is appalling. On the twin issues of energy and ecology, the television news boys, in their luxurious penthouses in Manhattan and Washington, would have the rest of us see by lighting just one little candle, rather than clear the artificially-created darkness.
Treatment of national defense and foreign policy is equally infuriating and probably more dangerous. The Institute for American Strategy, greatly concerned, has financed a comprehensive study by a scholar from the Brooking institution to look into CBS coverage of national defense. That network was selected for the study because it has the largest audience. The result makes the boys from [Paileyville?] look like volunteer Soviet agents.
The Institute’s 209 page report entitled “TV and National Defense, an Analysis of CBS News 1972 to 1973”, is based on a two-year monitoring of the CBS Evening News television specials and relevant portions of Mike Wallace’s 60 Minutes.
Author of the report is Dr. Ernest W. Lefevre, senior fellow and foreign policy studies at Brookings. His detailed analysis reached the following conclusions:
1. CBS national security news was so spotty and lopsided that it failed to provide the essential facts for understanding U.S. defense and military issues, the Soviet definition of détente, or the forward surge in Soviet military might.
2. CBS News was an active advocate of a position that implied, or called for, a lesser commitment to American allies and lower defense expenditures.
3. CBS News failed to seek out actively all opposing views on defense issues, particularly those calling for a stronger policy.
4. Yet almost totally neglected the view of millions calling for a stronger defense, and failed to provide a reasonable opportunity for the presentation and discussion of related national security views.
5. CBS coverage of the Vietnam War was found, in the study, to be strongly and persistently critical of US policy, and of our South Vietnam allies, and was mildly favorable to North Vietnam.
The study claimed in fact that 83 and 1/3% of the themes in stories about South Vietnam were critical of that US ally. And it revealed that over half of the themes and stories about North Vietnam were favorable to the Communist enemy. Nearly two-thirds of CBS news stories on U.S. military affairs were unfavorable to the military and only 13% were favorable.
Using study figures, the Institute for American Strategy, contends that in 1972, CBS News gave reasonable coverage to administration viewpoints but a much greater coverage to critics who advocated a reduction in defense and foreign policy commitments, and almost no coverage to those who supported a stronger United States defense and foreign policy.
The Institute reported that a group of 8 educators served as news transcript analysts and eight scholars acted as members of an independent review panel to evaluate and improve the analysis and report. The percentages of the viewpoints reflected in the broadcasts were based on the number of sentences presenting each viewpoint that were broadcast.
When Walter Cronkite was confronted with the shocking results of this report, he did not even bother to deny it. He said, “There are always groups in Washington expressing views of alarm over the state of our defenses. We don’t carry those stories. The story is that there are those who want to cut defense spending.”
The list of outrages goes on, and on, and on. Kissinger is lionized, and détente enshrined. The hell of Red China is portrayed as a successful experiment in social engineering. And the late Mao Tse-tung, greatest mass murderer in human history, is presented as a kindly old gentleman, as virtuous as Santa Claus. As the establishment insiders prepare to open Cuba once again, Castro is depicted as a kind of a one-man Caribbean ACLU, just as Stalin was, before 1947, lauded as the hero of the working class.
The latest international issue being given the Madison Avenue treatment by the boys with the gray flannel-mouths, is the Panama Canal. Then of course there are the themes begging to be treated which go ignored.
In my dreams I imagine turning professor Antony Sutton’s important book “National Suicide” into a 60-minute CBS News special. The CBS eye would go blind before allowing that to happen, but imagine the impact of telling 30 million people that the Soviet military industrial complex was largely created by Wall Street, just as Red China is now being built up by the same conspirators.
The problem is that, as far as the American public is concerned, what they don’t know can kill them. Still, one has hope. “Accuracy in Media (AIM)” is a relatively new organization, based in Washington, which attempts to get the network’s to balance their presentation. This is like trying to convince a weasel not to suck eggs. While “Accuracy in Media” regularly catches the news commentators with their facts down, the network’s just as regularly respond that the prejudice is all in the eyes of the beholder.
In its newsletter for February 1976 “Accuracy in Media” explains its experiences in dealing with the networks as follows: they state: “The three television networks all contend that their procedures for dealing with complaints about the accuracy and fairness of their public affairs programs are quite adequate. There has been some improvement in the past year in the sense that CBS and NBC have assigned the task of handling AIM and presumably other complaints to a designated vice president. This has resulted in reasonably prompt responses, but the reaction is almost always a denial that there has been any error or unfairness on the part of the network. For example, AIM lodged some 18 complaints with CBS in 1975 about inaccurate or unfair programs. In only one case did CBS admit an error and made a correction on the air, and they did so only after a delay of nearly ten weeks.
We lodged 10 complaints with NBC. That network was unwilling to admit that there had been any error, serious omission, or unfairness in any of these cases. And no corrections were made.” “Accuracy in Media” believes that the answer is to have the FCC intervene with the networks and use the Fairness Doctrine to force them to present both sides of controversial questions. With all due respect to AIM and its good intentions, we think this strategy is naive and doomed to frustration. In our opinion, AIM has as much chance of getting the FCC to move on the network news departments as Moshe Dayan has of becoming premier of Egypt.
As Nicholas Johnson, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission, has observed, the FCC is a captive of the very industry it is purportedly attempting to regulate. The history of the FCC predates its establishment by more than a decade. A 1912 act of Congress required that all operators of radio stations have a license, issued by the Secretary of Commerce. Under this act, the secretary had to license all comers.
In 1917, Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, asked that the Navy department be given, “the exclusive ownership of all wireless communication for commercial purposes.” But little was done, except that licensing became more restrictive as to permissible hours of operation.
In 1925 the Zenith Corporation went to court and challenged the legality of even what few restrictions existed, and won. The Senate countered by passing a resolution declaring the airwaves to be the inalienable possession of the people of the United States. For the word “people” you may substitute the word “government”. The airwaves were nationalized when the Federal Radio Act of 1927 put wireless communication under strict licensing control.
The pattern of regulatory authority is basically unchanged. Though the Communications Act of 1934 transferred the powers of the Federal Radio Commission to the Federal Communications Commission, to centralize federal regulation of both wire and wireless messages. The Federal Radio Act had created an independent regulatory agency, and all previous licensing loopholes were closed. Licenses were to be issued only when the public interest, necessity, or convenience would be served, and those licensed had to use only their assigned frequency and no others.
In addition, however, a Congress, aware of the First Amendment, specifically sought to safeguard free speech. The First Amendment to the Constitution, you’ll remember, reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Section 326 of the Communications Act of 1934 as amended provides, “Nothing in this chapter shall be understood or construed to give the Commission the power of censorship over the radio communications or our signals transmitted by any radio station. And no regulation or condition shall be promulgated or fixed by the Commission which shall interfere with the right of free speech by means of radio communication.”
But the federal camel now had its nose inside the tent of the First Amendment. When speech must be licensed it is not free. The founding fathers who took such care to protect newspapers, would hardly have approved federal control over the airwaves. But the FCC now operates for the purpose of violating the First Amendment. It does not say that is what its purpose is. But the meaning of “freedom of speech” is that government shall not require a license to speak, and that is all there is to it, period.
In 1943, in the case of NBC versus the United States, the Supreme Court established the FCC licensing prerogative as follows, “An important element of public interest and convenience affecting the issue of a license is the ability of the licensee to render the best practicable service to the community reached by broadcasts. The Commission’s licensing function cannot be discharged therefore merely by finding that there are no technological objections to the granting of a license. If the criterion of public interest were limited to such matters, how could the Commission choose between two applicants for the same facilities, each of whom is financially and technically qualified to operate a station.”
Under this logic, the FCC is allowed to say who can broadcast, and in effect, who cannot—a discriminatory power at odds with freedom of the press and amounting to censorship. And just how, you may ask, does the FCC decide among competing applicants? Ah, my naive friend, what do you think? License denials involve censorship as much as if the Manchester Union leader were to be officially denied the right to publish on the ground that publisher William Loeb had not accommodated his newspaper to what some board in Washington judges to be the needs of New Hampshire. Nonetheless, the courts have upheld the authority of the FCC to interest itself in the programming of those at licenses, which is everyone who broadcasts.
Further, the political pressure is brought openly to bear. According to a recent FCC annual report, the Commission had that year received more than 59,000 expressions of public opinion, mostly letters on broadcasting matters, of which some 22,000 were complaints. Of the latter, the vast majority were concerned about program content and their advertising practices over-the-air, and seven and a half percent of all complaints were about political broadcasts and editorializing.
Complaints go into the FCC’s file on individual stations and can be brought out at renewal time to jeopardize an independent applicant. Understandably, no station owner wants a considerable number of letters about his programming on file at the FCC, lest the eyebrows of the Commission be raised. Once granted by the gods of the FCC, renewal of a license is not automatic—less so all the time. And infringements on free speech blow with the political wind. As commentator Dan Smoot writes, “It turned out that the power to license is the power to destroy. In its Mayflower Broadcasting Company case of 1941, the FCC decided it was in the public interest to prohibit broadcast station officials from expressing their own opinions, over their own stations, on any controversial subject. In a nation whose Constitution prohibits Congress from abridging anyone’s freedom of speech, an agency created by Congress flatly ordered certain responsible people, who owned and operated broadcast stations, not to speak at all over their own stations.
The broadcasting industry did not resist. Networks, and most stations did circumvent the FCC ruling by various means, usually by hiring commentators to present their viewpoints. But not one industry leader tried directly and legally to challenge the FCC’s lawless usurpation of power. Thus the industry itself implicitly endorsed the principle that the FCC had limitless absolute power.”
On June 1st 1949, the FCC issued a report called “In the Matter of Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees”. With dissenting views it fills 32 pages, single-spaced—a typical bureaucratic fulmination, meaning anything that bureaucrats might later want it to mean.
It introduced a Fairness Doctrine for the broadcasting industry. It did not revoke the Mayflower decision of 1941 which silenced opinions of licensees. In fact, it referred favorably to that decision. Yet it said that licensees who editorialize, or express their own views on controversial issues, now had an affirmative obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for presentation of opposing views.
One member of the FCC dissented from the Fairness Doctrine report of June 1st 1949. He called it a formless policy statement, presenting only a vague concept of a broadcaster’s duty, and impossible to interpret as a policy guide. The dissenting commissioner said it revealed either a reluctance to admit the error of the earlier Mayflower decision, or a desire to perpetuate its evil effect.
Critic Dan Smoot comments, “The FCC’s 1949 Fairness Doctrine gave no comprehensive definition of fairness. One cannot be given. What seems fair to some may seem unfair to others. So, in effect, the FCC’s 1949 Fairness Doctrine ordered broadcasters to editorialize, but warned that they had better do it to suit the FCC.”
One chief result: many broadcast facilities of the nation have become controlled disseminators of government approved news. Government control is not overt, direct, and formal. No, it is very sophisticated. In 1962 the FCC expanded its doctrine on a ruling concerning nutritionist Dr. Carlton Frederick, stating, “Those licensees who rely solely upon the assumed, built-in fairness of the program itself, or upon the nutritionist’s invitation to those with opposing viewpoints, cannot be said to have properly discharged their responsibilities. Neither alternative is likely to produce the fairness which the public interests demands.”
In other words, it was no longer sufficient for the man who bought the air time to have to bring his enemy on his program. The station was now required to provide free time separately. Well, you can imagine how eager station managers are to do this, which is how the organized left has been able to drive so many conservative broadcasters off the air. The Fairness Doctrine is used as a form of censorship.
During the early 1960s, the number of conservative, anti-communist programs on radio was proliferating. Panic was rapidly engulfing the far left. On December 19, 1961, Walter Reuther presented Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, with a memorandum on “The Radical Right in America Today.” Reuther, who once wrote home from Russia, urging his friends to keep working for a Soviet America, was quite naturally disturbed at the growth of anti-communism.
Though he thought no communist groups should be so listed, he wanted the Attorney General to put organizations of the “radical right” on the subversive list. He also suggested that the Federal Communications Commission do something to banish the conservatives from radio and television. For information on how the FCC was used for bipartisan politics in 1963 and 1964, we recommend a new book, “The Good Guys, the Bad Guys, and the First Amendment”, by Fred Friendly, former president of CBS News. Mr. Friendly is, without question, a liberal, but he differs from many of the breed in that he believes in free speech, even for those with whom he disagrees.
Fred Friendly reports that on October 17 1963, Wayne Phillips a former New York Times’man, then on the staff of the administrator of the Housing Administration, was summoned to the White House. The president was concerned about the opposition of anti-communist radio and TV commentators to his nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets.
Kennedy wanted a campaign to gag opponents of the treaty, and Friendly relates, “Virtually every time a Hargis or a McIntyre denounced the test ban treaty, a letter was sent out demanding reply time under the Fairness Doctrine. Special programs were taped for this purpose, and the success of the campaign, especially in certain unsure states, was credited with mobilizing public opinion in favor of the treaty.”
The former president of CBS News continues, “The success of this experience taught the Kennedy administration how the Fairness Doctrine could be employed for high-priority legislation. The Democrats continued to develop techniques to combat right-wing radio propaganda, and in May prepared a kit explaining how to demand time under the Fairness Doctrine. The idea was simply to harass radio stations by getting officials and organizations that had been attacked by extremist radio commentators, to request reply time citing the Fairness Doctrine.”
The campaign resulted in free time rebuttals to paid conservative broadcasts on over 500 radio programs. Bill Reuter, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce under John F Kennedy, admits frankly, “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters, and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.”
Mr. Friendly tells us that the Democrat National Committee established a front called the National Council for Civic Responsibility to handle these dirty tricks. The Democrats cleverly put a liberal Republican, Arthur Larson, at the helm of the National Council for Civic Responsibility. Larson recalls, “We decided to use the Fairness Doctrine to harass the extreme right. In the light of Watergate, it was wrong. We felt the ends justified the means. I guess I was a babe in the woods. As soon as I knew the Democrats were putting money into it, I wanted out.”
Friendly writes, “Whatever lessons hindsight has taught, this campaign in 1964 against right-wing broadcasts was, at the time, considered a success by its creators. In a summary written during the closing days of the presidential election, Firestone pointed with pride to over 1,000 letters to stations that produced a total of 1678 hours of free time from stations carrying McIntyre, Dean Mannion, and Dan Smoot. Both he and Wayne Phillips felt a genuine sense of accomplishment.” He continues, “In a report to the Democratic National Committee, Phillips wrote, “even more important than the free radio time was the effectiveness of this operation in inhibiting the political activity these right-wing broadcasts.” In a confidential report to Philips and the Democratic National Committee, Firestone stressed the nature of the campaign that may have inhibited the stations in their broadcast of more radical and political partisan programs. He concluded that most of the stations are small, rural stations, in desperate need of broadcast revenues. The right-wingers operate on a strictly cash basis and it is for this reason that they are carried by so many small stations. Were our efforts to be continued on a year-round basis, we would find that many of these stations would consider the broadcasts of these programs bothersome and burdensome, especially if they are ultimately required to give us free time. And they would start dropping the programs from their broadcast schedule.”
So much for freedom of speech. Not content with liberal domination of the great national networks, a liberal president had moved to silence conservative opposition, even on the 10 watt station at Gumbo Louisiana. As soon as possible, of course, the FCC amended the Fairness Doctrine, “To exempt bona fide news interviews.” That is, Meet the Press, and Face the Nation, and commentary or analysis in the course of bona fide newscasts. Friendly comments, “Sevareid, Howard K Smith, and David Brinkley were now in the clear.”
Lee Loevinger, one of the most articulate and acerbic members of the FCC, objected to what he called “the Eric Sevareid rule”, declaring that “The Commission cannot draft or apply rules that operate on the basis of its attitude toward particular individuals. If the commentaries of Eric Sevareid are entitled to exemption from the rules, then so are the commentaries of Richard Cotton, Carl McIntyre, and a host of other commentators.”
Expressing his own respect for Sevareid, Loevinger dissented from the exemption amendments, as he had from the tortuous new personal attack rules, saying that “Because they have been inadequately considered, and badly drafted, and are unreasonable and unconstitutionally vague, I have come to doubt the competence of a government agency such as the Commission, to promulgate rules such as these in the area of speech.”
In spite of Lee Loevinger’s dissent, the proposed rules were adopted by the FCC with clearly defined protections for the liberal broadcast journalists as opposed to the conservative, religious, or political commentator. Sauce for the small station’s goose was not to be sauce for the network’s gander.
Thus, the FCC may hassle the ABC, CBS, and NBC over programming during the so-called family hour, but their programming with overt political implications is sacrosanct.
The Fairness Doctrine was upheld by a dutiful Supreme Court in 1969. The court ruled that the First Amendment should not protect broadcasters as it does publishers, affirming that the air over which broadcasters operate does not belong to them, but to the public, a euphemism for the government and its bureaucrats, and thus the First Amendment is not a sanctuary for unlimited private censorship operating in a medium not open to all.
Stations, said the court, did not possess, “An unabridgeable First Amendment right to broadcast comparable to the right of every individual to speak write or publish.”
The Fairness Doctrine was necessary, “To preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas.”
Well, welcome to “1984””. Everything was going according to plan, but there was a great deal more to it. Not content with government control over television, Lyndon Johnson had earlier created a president’s Task Force on Communications Policy, headed by Undersecretary of State for political affairs, Eugene Rostow. “This 16-month study”, says Broadcast Magazine, “concluded that America needs bigger and better federal control of the nation’s airwaves. To achieve this purpose, it proposed a super agency even more powerful than the Federal Communications Commission, stating that present federal regulatory policies have failed in the goal of diversifying the content of television programming. The task force outlined a plan for federal action, which included government-sponsored television systems and federal pressure to ensure that broadcasting fulfills its significant potential as a support to a variety of governmental missions, such as health, education, improvement of race relations, and elimination of unemployment.”
No propaganda, no license.
But that isn’t all. The report also proposed that the authority to allocate new channels be taken away from the FCC and given to the White House through a new super agency which would be called the White House Office of Telecommunications. It urged domination of every actor in the spectrum of electronic media, though it also stated that the fact finders didn’t mean to imply that Washington wanted complete control of programming. These plans, in the Deep Freeze over the past eight years, may be about to be thawed under Jimmy Carter.
Our guess is, that in the name of simplification and reorganization, Carter will grab for personal control of the electronic media, and we shall see. Even as things stand, while the FCC claims to be an independent agency, its members are appointed by the president so the degree of independence of the Commission and of its chairman is always limited. Selections are often made on the basis of political loyalty. Thus the temptation of future administrations to repeat the dirty tricks of the Kennedys is probably irresistible. In the meantime, the FCC acts as legislator, administrator, prosecutor, judge, and jury.
As Professor Louie Jaffe of the Harvard Law School has noted, “Seven men in Washington are giving away broadcasting channels worth millions of dollars, apparently with no clear guide except personal whims and political pressure.”
Being realistic, ideological collusion between the Establishment lackeys on the FCC, and the Establishment lackeys running the networks, is not going to be ended voluntarily. What we need is more competition, more stations free of government pressure. As things are, Americanists are not about to invest millions of dollars establishing or buying television stations knowing that collectivists on the FCC can put them out of business at any time.
The answer is to abolish the Federal Communications Commission. That’s right, abolish it. The excuse for nationalizing the airwaves in the first place was the supposed scarcity factor. Yet, as economist and philosopher Murray Rothbard observes in “For a New Liberty”, “There are far more television channels available than there are now in use.” Dr. Rothbard explains that “Another common objection to private property in the broadcast media is that private stations might interfere with each other’s broadcasts, and that such widespread interference would certainly prevent any programs from being heard or seen.
Most people believe that this is precisely the reason the airwaves were nationalized in the first place. The line is that, before the radio act of 1927 stations interfered with each other signals, producing chaos and the federal government was forced to intervene to establish order and rationalize a jumbled mess. According to Rothbard, this is historical legend, not fact.
The actual history is precisely the opposite. For when interference on the same channel began to occur, the injured party took the airwave aggressors into court and the courts were beginning to bring order out of the chaos by very successfully applying the common law theory of property rights—in very many ways, similar to the libertarian theory, to this new technological area
In short, the courts were beginning to assign property rights in the airwaves to their homesteading users. It was after the federal government saw the likelihood of this new extension of private property that it rushed in to nationalize the airwaves, using alleged chaos as the excuse.”
Without the FCC, radio and television stations would have a property right to their wavelength. They would not have to fear that Big Brother might come in and yank their license because the federales don’t like what is being said. There would be no license for the bureaucrats to withdraw. The overt and covert blackmail game would be over. Investors who want to offer the public something better than the nightly network brainwash could buy stations or start new ones. Literally hundreds of new ones, all in competition with the network oligopoly. Which is of course why the network’s are fighting freedom of the air with all the weapons at their disposal.
The Wall Street Journal of July 13 1973 commenting on a Brookings Institution study, affirms the feasibility. It states, “But, as the Brookings study notes many of the almost 1100 channel assignments remain unused and almost all TV stations not affiliated with a major Network lose money. Consequently, the Brookings authors recommend abandonment of the unworkable FCC policy of encouraging local TV outlets, in favor of doubling the number of major TV networks from 3 to 6. Additionally, they recommend encouraging cable and pay TV, along with ending government regulation for the industry, except for engineering and technical aspects of station licensing.”
The fact is that there really is no excuse for the continued existence of the FCC, other than as a means of maintaining a monopoly for the liberal establishment over electronic communications. It is even doubtful that it was ever really needed to prevent chaos caused by overlapping use of frequencies. Whatever the case, the development of broadcast technology has now rendered obsolete the arguments about scarcity of frequencies and channels.
The advent of cable television makes the number of potential channels almost infinite, with the result that the FCC has jumped in to control cable TV programming too, betraying its true intention and reason for existing. Anybody who defends the status quo of FCC control over radio and television is defending monopoly political privilege and special interests. Congress made a serious mistake in nationalizing the airwaves in the first place. It is time for Congress to undo that mistake. How about you writing your legislator to see if he will be the one who will dare to offer the legislation to bail the cat?