A Call for Re-Regulation of Media

Population and immigration-reduction activists (and everyone else) have a right – under ETHICAL journalism – to expect other than: news blackouts of critical topics, like immigration and population; deliberate misrepresentation of those and other issues; no focus on overpopulation as causal to most social, economic, environmental and, well, pandemic problems; blatant omission or distortion of immigration history (such as ignoring reports from the Jordan Commission and Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development) or libelous characterizations, by reporters, of those concerned about over-immigration as xenophobes, racists or white supremacists.

We have, thanks to deregulation and “leaders” – a term I use advisedly – who refuse to fix the problem, media disturbingly like Pravda, the propaganda tool of the old Soviet Union. We’re indoctrinated, not informed.

We need media regulated, or more accurately, regulated AGAIN, since major media, not long ago, were heavily regulated!

“News media” – another term I use advisedly – are limiting what we hear and see, are putting forth unimportant stories and divisive stories to keep us distracted from the real issues, like the danger of a deregulated media. They are ignoring critical-issues reporting, such as legislation before Congress or why our political system is failing. And sometimes they are even lying – if population and immigration are examples – when it serves their ends, or perhaps more accurately, the ends of those who, again thanks to deregulation, own media.

Even though 11,000 of the world’s scientists – as they recently declared a climate emergency – insisted that we MUST deal with population, media did not give them – likely exactly because of that population reference – the lead-story, run-it-into-the-ground focus far lesser stories get, even as media are, seemingly, gearing up to mislead about the current census. After the last census, they headlined trivia – like Americans own more cats than dogs – but mostly ignored reporting on the real purpose of the census: population.

Media consistently ignore that ours is the world’s third most populated nation, or that our high per-capita carbon footprint makes us the equivalent in “carbon population” to China or India, even as they excoriate and vilify Donald Trump on climate – I’m not a huge fan of his, but fair is fair – and, an increasingly dangerous trend, use their power to vilify him and others. It is such actions by media that have reduced us to the equivalent of a national gutter fight.

Media almost universally depict that falling birthrates, both domestic and global, mean population decreases. They ignore a likely global increase from near 8 billion now to 10 billion by 2050 and even higher late century, and likely increases from 330 million to 430 million Americans – 100 million more – by the 2060s, as they put out “low growth” or even “negative growth” propaganda.

For example, CBS in the Morning featured an author predicting “under” population, with nary a mention that 92 percent of our, in fact, exploding population – increases of 28 million to 30 million a decade – is immigration driven. Meanwhile, every few months, as though carefully choreographed among networks, media headline falling birthrates, even as immigration reporting studiously ignores its impact on population.

Nor do media mention carrying-capacity crises, such as population’s part in the fact that iconic Lake Mead, the second largest reservoir in North America, might run dry and where, due to climate change, the Colorado River, upon which 50 million people depend, might have flows half of normal by 2050 as the region’s population doubles – again, immigration-driven.

Instead, media give us:

  • – The oxymoron of “news” stories rerun for days!
  • – Endless political-correctness indoctrination.
  • – Sensationalized coronavirus coverage, to the point of spawning hysteria, but without mention that our healthcare system, already strained by overpopulation, is not ready for even a bad flu season.
  • – Adversarial, hostile interviews unfairly forcing interviewees to endlessly defend themselves, absent any premise or exploration of innocence.
  • – Double standards. If the Trump administration loses an immigration court case, it’s headlined. When it wins, nothing, a double-standard common to many topics.
  • – Trivia, crimes of only local importance packaged as national news, endless political-correctness stories and celebrity news substituted for that which a democracy MUST have, the critical-issues coverage of the type that used to be the core of ALL news reporting.
  • – Accusations by advocacy groups like #MeToo absent media responsibility to INVESTIGATE before reporting them, as media instead lead what some call the “Indianapolis 500 Rush to Judgment.”
  • – Strictly “advocacy” or biased reporting that forgets journalistic ETHICS requiring that news must be separate from opinion. Once, reporters strove to report objectively.
  • – Consistently seek comment only from those confirming views journalists want advanced. Comments from objective news sources are a thing of the past.
  • – “Junk news,” like junk food, devoid of substance, and long-term, very dangerous.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

The public loath media, although for the wrong reasons. The left loath Fox News on the right. The right loath “liberal” media, both wrong and dangerous conclusions.

Lost on everyone is that media formerly was trusted, that media used to adhere to ETHICS in journalism and didn’t used to be about left or right – except on the editorial page – but about all views and information presented fully, inclusively, without an agenda, the type of reporting that builds common ground and stills the waters of division! Today’s reporting merely confirms our prejudices and assumptions – incites, rather than informs.

In the dawning days of broadcasting, leaders – back when we had leaders – saw huge potential for those who own media to misuse broadcasting. They also saw the public airways as a public resource that should serve the public good, so they heavily regulated broadcasting, a condition that prevailed for half a century, but that was lost when:

  1. In 1987, Ronald Reagan pushed for and got revocation of the 1940s Fairness Doctrine which had banned bias in broadcasting, forbade broadcasters from blacking out or ignoring entire topics – like population – and mandated ethics in reporting, regulations with teeth because the public had the right to protest broadcast license renewals. One television station, for example, lost its license for consistently one-sided, pro-segregation reporting. The Fairness Doctrine was upheld by the Supreme Court which stated it didn’t violate press freedom, so the “problem” was solved legislatively by Reagan, et al.
  2. The Zapple Doctrine, a lingering part of the Fairness Doctrine, was revoked in 2014. The equal-time rule (not part of the Fairness Doctrine) survived, but was so watered down by the courts that it has been described as a “courtesy” granted by broadcasters. Both regulations required broadcasters to give candidates or others “with standing” equal time for rebuttal, including rebuttal of network or station commentaries or “unfair” stories. As an example of how egregious things are, a district court ruled – in a suit brought, and lost, in the 1980s by the League of Women Voters concerned about media overstep – that a station could give airtime to one candidate, but not another.
  3. Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which removed laws that had kept media under diverse ownership – and extremely competitive and, thus, effective – and had banned conflicts-of-interest. Major media were owned by more than 50 entities. Today, Big Media are owned by just six tightly interwoven titans controlling movies, television, radio, publishing, much of the internet and, by extension, much of our perception of “reality” and our thinking. Most of what we hear, see and read passes through the narrow, dangerous bottleneck they control.
     
    It should scare the bejesus out of us that the same entities may also own Big Medicine, pharmaceuticals, insurance, investing, transportation, weapons manufacturing and Big Ag, in contrast to when laws prohibited those owning media from owning ANY other enterprises. Should we be concerned, for example, that those owning media might also own companies making weapons, perhaps using their media power to encourage going to war? Has that already happened? Should we be concerned that the internet – as in China – might be, now or eventually, limited in what is there, that the great pool of “everything” might be gradually limited, censored or restricted, something that also falls in the “scare the bejesus out of you” category.

While most deregulation was about broadcasting, dysfunction has spread to print media. Hundreds of papers have ceased publishing, meaning diverse wire-service coverage from thousands of towns and news sources has shrunk appallingly. Surviving newspapers are often, like broadcasting, owned by Big Media – or the richest man in the world (The Washington Post) – with the same selectively picked news, junk news, bias and, perhaps, dangerous agenda as broadcasting. Appallingly, many newspapers have even ceased publishing letters or commentaries from the public, gagging a key part of the conversation that democracies require!

The irony of media deregulation is that it was justified under claims that regulation, especially the Fairness Doctrine, inhibited the free exchange of information. Yet, deregulation has had the opposite effect, proving that putting a fox in charge of any henhouse never works – except for the fox!

Teddy Roosevelt said it was government’s job to “control the excesses of business,” and nowhere are excesses worse than in media. Yet, the silence from “leaders” who should be speaking out and addressing the problem is deafening. Or is it that, thanks to media “censorship,” they are speaking out, but it isn’t being reported?

It’s profoundly disturbing that media are broken and dangerous as we confront crises like the coronavirus, a broken political system in Washington, D.C. – how many have even heard of the effort to pass a 28th Amendment to fix it? – two political parties unrecognizable from not long ago and a world environment in crisis.

That we have media so broken at a time of overwhelming global events, whether a pandemic or climate change – and all that we must do (personally, nationally and globally) to accurately understand and address them – is a situation that speaks of an urgent need for media re-regulation.