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MEDIA FAIRNESS: Regulation, Diversity, Reality

MEDIA FAIRNESS: Regulation, Diversity, Reality

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Published by Brian M. Rowland
The essence of this inquiry is the impact of the Federal Communications Commission’s deregulation of broadcasting has had on content fairness and diversity since the repeal of the fairness doctrine and the liberalization of ownership rules, or whether all such regulation is made passé by new media and its accompanying technologies. These issues are entangled and will be examined in separate divisions.
The essence of this inquiry is the impact of the Federal Communications Commission’s deregulation of broadcasting has had on content fairness and diversity since the repeal of the fairness doctrine and the liberalization of ownership rules, or whether all such regulation is made passé by new media and its accompanying technologies. These issues are entangled and will be examined in separate divisions.

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Published by: Brian M. Rowland on Nov 17, 2007
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09/28/2010

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 Media Fairness; Regulation, Diversity, Reality
Brian M. Rowland Florida Coastal School of Law Journal January 31, 2001
1.Introduction
Frequent complaints of those who observe or scrutinize the media are cries of bias,unfairness, and agenda peddling. Such charges appear to be on the rise in recentdecades. A likely contributing factor is the Federal Communications Commission’s(Commission, or FCC) relaxation of regulatory control over broadcast media contentenabling broadcasters to ignore certain fairness regulations previously imposed.
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Acorrelative reason for concern is the Commission’s recent changes in broadcast groupownership rules. The combination of these have arguably reduced diversity of voices inthe electronic media content, and conclusively reduced diversity in its ownership,raising fears that fairness has been endangered by monopolization and centralizedprogramming control.Should the media be held to a higher standard and be regulated into behaving withintegrity? Stephen L. Carter, professor of law at Yale University, asks, “if integrity issuch a good thing – and if we truly have less of it than we ought – then why notmandate it?”.
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Carter suggests that regulation of media, and especially its political
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Inquiry Into Section 73.1910 of the Commission’s Rules and Regulations Concerning Alternatives to the General Fairness DoctrineObligations of Broadcast Licensees, 102 F.C.C.2d 143, 244 (1985).
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Stephen L. Carter, Integrity 193 (1996).
 
content, is a problematic source of embarrassment as the two are “diabolicallyvolatile.”
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Why is fairness and diversity in media important? In our nation’s history the mediawas an effective tool for Samuel Adams in rallying colonists against British troopsduring the Revolutionary War.
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Press Now
 ,
 
an organization that supports free press inCentral and Eastern Europe further explains that, “[w]hat can generally be asserted formost of the countries of Eastern Europe is that the media served the elites in power:they did this by misinforming the people, by creating stereotypes of enemies and theWest, by ‘educating’ the masses, by interpreting Party directives and indoctrinatingthrough ideology.
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The ideological hegemony and the monopoly on power perpetuated by the media was based on two foundations: the suppression of individual interests andthe egalitarianism of poverty.”
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Cries for media fairness in the United States aregenerally not the result of a desire to avoid or initiate revolution, but recent historywarns that the various electronic media have considerable power, and control should bediversified to a multitude of responsible gatekeepers and not subject to the centralchoke-point that a monopoly represents.
 7
3
Id.
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ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITTANICA, ADAMS, SAMUEL; COMMITMENT TO AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
 
(visited Jan. 12, 2001)<http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/6/0,5716,3716+2,00.html>.
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Press Now is a Dutch organization dedicated to free press in countries such as Bosnia-Hercegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Bulgaria,Romania, and Croatia. The Chairman of Press Now is Erik Jurgens, constitutional law professor at the Free University in Amsterdam, member of the Upper House of the Netherlands Parliament, and member of the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe. (visited Jan. 15, 2001)<http://www.dds.nl/~pressnow/about/board.html>.
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Why Should Independent Media Be Supported in Countries in Transition? 
Press Now (visited Jan. 15, 2001)<http://www.dds.nl/~pressnow/dossier/whysupport.html>
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The term “choke-point” is used to describe the bottleneck effect of a monopoly upon the broadcast media. A choke-point ischaracterized by the ease of affecting many broadcast stations by the control of one owner , or the influence of another upon the
 
The essence of this inquiry is the impact of the Commission’s deregulation of broadcasting has had on content fairness and diversity since the repeal of the fairnessdoctrine and the liberalization of ownership rules, or whether all such regulation ismade passé by new media and its accompanying technologies.
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These issues areentangled and will be examined in separate divisions below.
2.What Bias?
Complaints of media bias come from various directions and concern more than justthe television news industry. Bias may stem from an individualized decision of aneditor or on-air talent or it may conceivably result from a centrally-controlled corporatemandate.
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Whatever the motivation for the bias, it often appears in recognizable forms
such as the purposeful exposure of one side of a story, or the omission of seeminglyworthy news items altogether. Further, bias may occur when a disingenuousassociation between one person or point of view and that of another is made, resultingin a false light being cast upon the former, and an untrue relationship created betweenthe two. Finally, bias or unfairness may occur when news reporters air a story andreport, in bandwagon fashion, what others are reporting without conducting their own
owner. In the opposite, when broadcasters are limited as to the quantity of stations they may own, the result is a greater diversity of owners that are less easily influenced or controlled. It is noteworthy that the Internet represents the utmost in decentralization bothin the diversity of its content providers and the nature of its architecture.
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Fairness and diversity are interrelated as will be discovered.
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 See
FCC v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. 134, 137-138 (1940). The Court discusses Congressional intent in theCommunications Act of 1934 to be such that Congress feared that in the absence of certain governmental licensing control, thepublic interest would be subordinated if monopolistic control in the broadcast industry occurred.
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Such forms are recognizable to one who, like myself, has spent a significant time in broadcast management and programming.

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