Remember when cable news was civilized? Yeah, me neither, but from what I hear television news used to be fact based rather than sensationalized. Political commentary was about healthy debate, rather than juvenile tribalism. Today, it’s all about defending the corporate faction you are paid to defend. Truth has gone out the window. The corporate news media dictates what is and isn’t important. Nancy Pelosi calling Trump “morbidly obese” is considered more news worthy than anything that’s happening in Yemen or Syria. It’s very possible cable news was more civilized back in the day, because we had a little thing called the Fairness Doctrine.
What is the Fairness Doctrine?
Back in the late 1920s it became common place for most families to have a radio in their house. Eventually in 1934 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was formed to ensure radio was being used for the public good. Eventually the television was invented to overthrow the radio as king of media platforms. In 1949 the FCC established the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine forced broadcasting stations to adhere to two main mandates:
1. Required a station to devote airtime to cover controversial matters of public interest.
2. Required a station to present all sides of a story.
There was even a rule in the Fairness Doctrine that related to personal attacks. A station had to notify somebody in advance if a personal attack was going to be made against them, AND it required the stations to give that person a chance to respond ON AIR.
That’s a far cry from the corporate power struggle that we see unfold on cable news every day in modern America.
What happened to the Fairness Doctrine?
In 1986 congress asked the FCC to look into alternatives to the Fairness Doctrine after a recent court ruling. Alternatives were analyzed and rejected. By 1987 the Fairness Doctrine was abolished by a 4-0 vote. Congress tried to codify the fairness doctrine and pass it into law, but that legislation was vetoed by then president Ronald Regan. A similar situation happened again in the early 90s, but George Bush Sr also threatened a veto. It wasn’t long after this FOX news was established.
Cable News Stations Need Guidance
A lot of people say that the Fairness Doctrine was unconstitutional and that it regulated free speech. Maybe it did, but certainly we need some rules for Cable News. Today it’s the wild west of unverified claims, personal attacks, and weak reporting. The worst thing about it all is that they spend way too much time covering nonsense stories while ignoring the big issues that face the average American.