Is Barack Obama making another play at reinstating the Fairness Doctrine in the United States? If you take a look at who has recently been named as the new Chief Diversity Officer at the FCC you may think so.
Mark Lloyd has been a long time proponent in reinstating the fairness doctrine. Before joining the FCC as Associate General Council, he was a Senior Fellow for the ultra-liberal think-tank, Center for American Progress (CAP) where he and other members co-wrote the document "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio" published in June 2007.
In this document Lloyd rants about the "imperical" imbalance of talk radio between Conservative and Liberal hosts.
He chalks most of it up to that lack of diversity and localism in station ownership and concluded that the Government needed to:
-Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations.
-Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing.
-Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting.
"Localism" is a rather ambiguouse FCC regulation, right up there with Disturbing the Peace" laws. Determining whether or not you are breaking the law is left up to the mind of the individual who is enforcing it.
Obama has come out and publicly stated that he does not see a reason to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. What Obama is really doing is pulling a trick right out of the playbook of mentor, Saul Alinsky. Mr. Alinsky used to teach his followers to "strike hard from an unexpected direction".
While Obama has spoken out against the Fairness Doctrine he has alternately spoken in favor of revising and revisiting the FCC guidelines related to localism and diversity in station ownership. In September of 2007 he wrote a letter to the FCC for an open meeting they held in Chicago. In the letter he wrote:
"It is my opinion that Congress
and the American people will accept nothing less than
strong credible rules that encourage local coverage,
diverse programming, and minority, female, and local ownership of media outlets."
That my friends is the "unexpected direction". It only takes a 3-2 vote in favor of not renewing a broadcast license. Who set's the criteria for determining what is local coverage? Is it the news break every 30 minutes? Is it a conservative broadcaster who is from the area discussing local and national topics? Who knows.
Henry Rivera who was the former head of the FCC Transition Team (since removed do to lobbying concerns) had this to say about localism:
"In other words, it would not do for broadcasters to meet with the business leaders whose companies advertise on their station. Broadcasters must reach beyond the business sector and look for leaders in the civic, religious, and non-profit sectors that regularly serve the needs of the community, particularly the needs of minority groups that are typically poorly served by the broadcasting industry as a whole."
Only time will tell how this plays out. But do not be surprised if you start hearing key words and talking points sighting "localism" and "Diversity in Ownership".
Oh, I almost forgot. Mark Lloyd quickly followed up his above mentioned article with another titled "Forget the Fairness Doctrine". I'll end this with a quote from that article.
"In our report, we call for ownership rules that we think will create greater local diversity of programming, news, and commentary. And we call for more localism by putting teeth into the licensing rules. But we do not call for a return to the Fairness Doctrine."
Just localism and ownership diversity.