Jay Rockefeller Calls For Partisan Cable News To End

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Media

And you know what? I agree with him. I'd even go further.

I know it'll never happen, but one thing to keep in mind is the fact that these are our airwaves, not the networks’. I think many have lost sight of the fact that the public owns the airwaves and I hope this post serves as a reminder.

From Real Clear Politics:

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV): “There’s a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to FOX and to MSNBC: ‘Out. Off. End. Goodbye.’ It would be a big favor to political discourse; our ability to do our work here in Congress, and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly, in their future.”

Fox News and MSNBC have been a bane to serious political discourse in the past half decade and it’s time we all raise our hands and say, “No more!” Regardless of your political affiliation, I hope we can acknowledge that this back and forth isn’t helpful.

To those of you who would tell me I’m trying to censor certain opinions, I’d offer that there are plenty of different avenues for those voices to find an audience. But the public channels shouldn’t be used to perpetuate propaganda from the right or the left. And yes, this also applies to radio. So the Right’s dominance in this area could be called into question if we’re willing to have a serious conversation about who actually owns the media.

Of course that won’t happen, but there it is nonetheless.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 and is filed under Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to “Jay Rockefeller Calls For Partisan Cable News To End”

  1. Solomon Kleinsmith Says:

    You do realize you’re talking about CABLE right? Thats not public at all… its a hell of a lot less public than radio.

    At least with radio the stations have to pay for the spectrum rights, where with cable the channels are paid to provide content to the subscribers by the cable companies, which is then displayed… over their privately owned lines.

  2. danishova Says:

    What part of the First Amendment do you not get? These cable networks (who, by the way, do not fall under the FCC’s jurisdiction) are popular because the American people, hold on, this is an amazing revelation…choose to watch. And, psssst, you can change the channel or turn off the t.v. or radio altogether if you feel you are weak and can’t resist the opinions that are expressed on these shows, and will fall victim to ‘propaganda’ like some hypnotized character from the Manchurian Candidate. Just as we can choose not to read you idiotic blog commentary in the future (which in this instance sounds an awful lot like a combo of Stalinist “propaganda” and an Orwellian concern for protecting the people by restricting the people’s airwaves, but I digress….).

  3. SteveAR Says:

    Two things wrong with what you said. First, these stations aren’t on the “airwaves”; they are stations that are on “waves” owned by the cable and satellite companies, which is why we have to pay rent to see them.

    Second, ever heard of the First Amendment? It’s apparent Sen. Rockefeller hasn’t.

    ‘Fox News and MSNBC have been a bane to serious political discourse in the past half decade and it’s time we all raise our hands and say, “No more!” Regardless of your political affiliation, I hope we can acknowledge that this back and forth isn’t helpful.’

    Sure it is. Liberals have gotten away with lying to the people for decades and now there are avenues with which to call them out, including on cable/satellite stations. Your post proves my point.

  4. CB Says:

    This is a serious question, not sarcasm: Are you familiar with the concept of a “chilling effect”? Regardless what you think of them, if Fox and MSNBC were shut down because gov’t bureaucrats were upset with the quality or nature of the political discourse aired at those networks, then ALL cable outlets would have to self-censor going forward out of fear of offending the same bureaucrats. Soon there would be no honest discourse on TV at all, just pro-gov’t propoganda and old episodes of “Cheers.” Please think things through a little more thoroughly before advocating wholesale transformations of our society.

  5. jaazee Says:

    And you made you or Rockerfeller “judge and jury” with respect to who should be “allowed” to broadcast?

    I guess you don’t believe in the Constitution, either. When written it ws a man on horseback that carried the message…today it is the internet and cable TV.

    The public has enough intrusion, enough loss of liberties with the thousands upon thousands of rules, regulations, and and buereaucratic
    involvement in our daily lives, and now you also would favor taking away “choice” when it comes to news, entertainment and politicial discussion!

    People like you, people like Sen. Rockerfeller, are more of a threat to the public and personal liberty than MSNBC, CBS, FOX, and the rest of broadcast media.

  6. Wickedways Says:

    Fine. Who do we take off the air next?

    Are you nukin futts? For crying out loud. Progressives will not stop till all speech in this country is censored to dictate Political correctness.

    You guys on the left scare me. Im sure I scare you when Im out there advocating for MSNBC to keep on telling us how evil those Republicans are. Defending Keith Olberman, supporting Michael Moores right to make millions with movies impugning the very thing that makes him able to make the movies he makes.

    Im sure the right scares the left in a lot of things but man……this is just plain lunacy taken to new heights. Im surprised there are not a 100 posts already on this post.

  7. danishova Says:

    I submitted a comment at 10:48 a.m. – crickets chirping….Maybe they need the committee from the ministry of truth to okay it, or something.

  8. Aaron Says:

    A couple of things.

    First, the FCC doesn’t control cable broadcast. FoxNews and MSNBC are outside their jurisdiction.

    Second, I have to agree with Wicked here. I don’t think Fox and MSNBC are particularly healthy for political discourse and CNN isn’t helping matters, but the minute we start limiting free speech in ANY capacity, we go down a road that’s not worth it.

    I’d argue that it’s not lefties but folks on both sides who get this idea of blocking the obnoxious speech. But then where do we stop? I’d love to see civil discourse but not at the cost of censorship.

    As a web host, I care a lot about what is allowed to be broadcast, and I firmly believe everything should be allowed, even if it disgusts and offends me.

  9. Chris Says:

    Ah but it’s not truly free speech, it’s speech that is paid for by corporate interests with one goal: to influence voters.

    It’s not good for this country by any measure.

  10. Justin Gardner Says:

    All fair points, but we’re talking about two networks who call themselves news organizations, but really just offer a lot of commentary and very little actual news.

    A possibly compromise is they can’t call themselves objective news orgs. They’d have be labelled partisan news organizations. Because the free press has a responsibility to its viewers to tell them the facts, not build a “news product.” So perhaps it’s about labeling.

    I will give MSNBC this…at least their tagline is “Your Place For Politics.” Fox is still sticking with “Fair and Balanced” or “We Report. You Decide.”

    So, we can stand by and let these two “news” organizations essentially ruin the reputation of journalism and completely destroy journalistic integrity or we can do something about it.

  11. kranky kritter Says:

    What a nitwit.

    This is such a moronic, preposterous idea that I refuse to argue with anyone who thinks it’s even remotely possible to do in a fair and even-handed way. Never mind constitutional.

    It’s not going to happen. So whine all you want. The folks who have thought it through and seen how quickly that road paved with good intentions would lead deeply into hell? We’ll do our best to ignore you.

    I’ll maybe waste my time on preposterous ideas that might happen. Or good ideas that will never happen. But preposterous ideas that will never happen? Even I’m not that bored.

  12. Tully Says:

    Don’t like it, don’t watch it. Always works for me — haven’t watched cable news in years, save for election nights. (This year’s winner for best election-night coverage, CNN. Hands down on clear format alone.)

    Hard to argue with people who don’t know the difference between public broadcast airwaves and privately-owned cable networks, yet feel they have the wisdom to decide what is and isn’t proper for the citizenry to see and hear. No doubt given the chance some would happily have us reduced to our official government-sanctioned Two Minutes Hate followed by 23 hours and 58 minutes of “Four legs good, two legs bad!” alternating with the (revised) Seventh Commandment of Animalism.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false front for the urge to rule it. — H.L. Mencken

  13. Justin Gardner Says:

    The public doesn’t own the airwaves or the broadcast spectrum? Okay, let’s dig into that.

    First, you have the Communications Act of 1934 which essentially states that we always have access to these channels and sets up the FCC.

    Then you have the Supreme Court stating very clearly in 1966 that the FCC has every authority to regulate every single communication channel, including cable.

    Then you have the BARRY GOLDWATER sponsored bill in 1984 called the Cable Franchise Policy and Communications Act. It gives 5% of all cable revenue back to the communities they service.

    Last, but certainly not least, any radio or television network has to obtain a license from the government.

    So there’s all that. Still don’t think we do? Still think cable is somehow different?

    Sure, of course the cable stations are privately owned. So are the network stations. Cable technology was invented to deliver NETWORK stations to areas that couldn’t get over the air reception. Maybe “airwaves” is an inartful way of saying it, but the fact remains that the space these stations occupy ultimately belong to us and the government acts on behalf of us to make sure our interests are maintained. Basically, if you believe that the country and its resources belong to the citizens of that country, then no private organization can outright “own” something like a channel. Sure, they can rent it, but it’s not theirs. If you believe that a private organization can own that space in perpetuity, then I’m not sure that this discussion can go any further.

    As far as a chilling effect, nobody’s saying that people can’t say whatever they want. But can they claim to be one thing when they are actually another? That’s where the licensing of those outlets can be questioned. And it won’t be questioned by the government. It will be demanded by the citizenry.

    Yes…that’s right. Look again. Nowhere in my post did I say the government should do this. WE can demand that this news orgs stop calling themselves that or we can petition the FCC to revoke their licenses. It’s about false advertising. Can a news organization claim to be a news organization when they’re really not? That’s my issue folks.

    I don’t believe that Fox or MSNBC are, but they continue to sell themselves as such. It’s slanted, skewed and just plain wrong. And they’re both destroying credible journalism by creating an environment where people think it’s okay to have their own set of “facts” when those facts are really just opinions in disguise.

    As mentioned in this post, I realize this will never happen. But we could if we banded together and let our voices be heard. It would send a powerful message that the citizens of this country are tired of what stations like these are doing to the discourse and we want it to stop or be properly labeled as partisan news, not objective news.

  14. mw Says:

    Justin,
    I solved this problem years ago when I invented the FairThink™ ocular/cochlear integrated implants:

    If we look at this problem objectively, we see it cannot be solved by dealing with the broadcasters alone. The bigger problem resides in the listeners, watchers, and readers, who are so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of opinion and debate available in all kinds of media, that they fail to ingest a fair and balanced diet of divergent opinion. Information technology created this problem, information technology can solve it.

    FairThink™ implants solve the thorny problem of mis-matched media imbalance. What if there is no right wing director with the movie making skills of a Michael Moore? Or no left wing radio personalities with the aural persuasive power of Rush Limbaugh? With FairThink™ implants it will be no problem! Watch a great Michael Moore movie, and stay in balance listening to two scintillating hours of Rush Limbaugh! Your FairThink™ implants will track and balance your viewing habits, regardless of the device or media. The new FairThink™ implants will be discreetly installed subcutaneously with minimal, almost unnoticeable scarring.

    What a convenience! No need to worry about keeping each individual device in balance, your FairThink™ implants track and balance it all. The FairThink™ implants communicate with all FairChip™ enabled devices through the FairTooth™ proprietary network. All part of the FairLife™ balanced life you know you want to live, because that is what fair Americans do.”

    Things will be so much better once we get the government to mandate FairThink™ implants for all voting Americans. Now, I don’t want to get carried away and create constitutional issues like with mandated healthcare. People should certainly have the right to opt-out of getting the FairThink™ implants, although I would imagine it to be quite the social stigma to be without. But it is certainly reasonable that only Americans with the implants installed be allowed to vote. Why would we want unfair Americans voting?

  15. Tully Says:

    The public doesn’t own the airwaves or the broadcast spectrum?

    STRAW MAN. MUCH. No one said that, and your attempts to conflate the broadcast spectrum with cable are pretty pathetic.

    but the fact remains that the space these stations occupy ultimately belong to us and the government acts on behalf of us to make sure our interests are maintained.

    Dead. Wrong. As in “complete bullshit.” Cable is regulated under completely different rules than broadcast, rules which do indeed account for the fact that, as I stated, (all-caps clue-hammer) THE BROADCAST SPECTRUM DOES NOT INCLUDE CABLE. THE PUBLIC/GOVERNMENT DOES NOT OWN CABLE. THE PUBLIC/GOVERNMENT DOES NOT LEASE OUT CABLE SPACE TO CABLE CHANNELS SUCH AS FOXNEWS AND MSNBC, THE CABLE NETWORKS THAT BUILT THOSE NON-BROADCAST TELECOM INFRASTRUCTURES DO. THEY OWN THEIR INFRASTRUCTURE. THE PUBLIC/GOVERNMENT DOES NOT. Unlike the broadcast spectrum, cable is created, not pre-existing in nature. It is not a public good, and no amount of socialistic rhetoric will make it one.

    Apparently you didn’t bother to read any of your own cites, or you’d already know this. Indeed, it’s grammar-school science, the difference between wired and wireless communications. The regs on cable are anti-monopoly and franchising regularization regs, much like those on land-line telephone (and telegraph!) companies. One breathlessly awaits your proclaimed desire to regulate political speech on phone lines! Especially those newfangled cell phones, which actually DO broadcast …

    What Rockefeller really yearns for is the return of the Fairness Doctrine, itself a piece of anti-monopoly legislation long ago rendered obsolete by advancing technology and the explosion of media access alternatives. And he desperately wants to radically expand it to apply to cable, which never fell under it in the first place. Rockefeller EXPRESSLY AND EXPLICITLY wants this power in government hands so that it can be used to suppress speech he doesn’t like. Not a huge fan of the First Amendment, that Senator Rockefeller. (Apparently he’s not alone.)

    This is not the first time he has expressed such a yearning. In 2007 he tried to introduce legislation that would drag cable under the same laws as broadcast, vastly expanding FCC powers to regulate cable content. It failed to go anywhere. As have his many attempts to resurrect the “Fairness” Doctrine.

    Wanna bitch about FOXNEWS and MSNBC and urge boycotts of them? Go right ahead! I support your right to do so, 100%, and would go to bat to prevent your being silenced. But ya know, that’s not what Rockefeller was on about. And no matter how many times you rant about expropriating privately-built and privately-OWNED cable networks and/or forcing them to your whims, they still are not now and have never been part of the “public airwaves.” The “public” has no ownership rights in them.

  16. Tully Says:

    The public doesn’t own the airwaves or the broadcast spectrum?

    Straw man MUCH? No one said that. But cable is not part of the broadcast spectrum. Your attempts to conflate the two reveal at best abject ignorance, and at worst, intentional conflation to avoid the facts.

    the fact remains that the space these stations occupy ultimately belong to us and the government acts on behalf of us to make sure our interests are maintained.

    Dead. Wrong. As in “bullshit.” Here, let me use clue-hammer all-caps: CABLE IS NOT PART OF THE BROADCAST SPECTRUM. THE PUBLIC/GOVERNMENT DOES NOT OWN IT. IT DOES NOT LEASE SPACE ON IT TO THE CABLE CHANNELS. THE OWNERS WHO BUILT THE CABLE NETWORKS DO THAT. UNLIKE BROADCAST SPECTRUM, CABLE INFRASTRUCTURE IS NOT A PUBLIC GOOD. You continue to attempt to conflate the two, and had you read your own cites (I am granting you the kindliest interpretation) you would know that you’re flat-out wrong.

    The regs that apply to cable are anti-monopoly and franchise regularization, not broadcast authority or spectrum leasing. These rules are similar to those that apply to land-line phone companies. I breathlessly await your proclamation of your desire to regulate political speech on the phone on grounds of serving the public good. Even those newfangled cellphone thingies, which DO use licensed public spectrum. :-)

    I certainly support 100% your right to bitch about slanted media, to boycott it and urge others to do the same if they wish, but the bullshit rationalizations for giving government control of political speech wear thinner than micron level in extremely short order. And short of Stalinesque media control, it can’t work anyway. Shut down FoxNews and MSNBC, and their replacements would spring up Medusa-like in the blink of an eye, because they are serving huge commercial markets and the demand is there.

    I’ve touched on this subject many times previously, in terms of describing how the “impartial media” was a chimera in the first place, a two-generation illusion resulting from the rise of radio and television and the associated capital costs resulting in a tight media oligopoly. With the radical reduction in the “publishing cost” of electronic media, the oligopoly was broken and the market fragmented. Instead of a monolithic groupthink media establishment, we now have an ever-increasing number of media outlets seeking niche markets. Where the niche media markets of old were based on geography, now they’re based on personal preference and worldview. Short of brute force, that’s an unstoppable dynamic. They exist because the demand for them is overwhelmingly present.

    What Rockefeller desperately yearns for (and you apparently support) is a return of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, itself a piece of anti-monopoly regulation that has long been rendered obsolete by the explosion of the Information Age and the quantum expansion of the number of available media access points. Rockefeller EXPRESSLY AND EXPLICITLY wants the power to control speech he doesn’t like. Like many liberals (and not a few conservatives –if they can hold the keys) he wants to re-impose the media monolith, on the grounds that we now have too many choices and are too dumb to choose wisely. All under benevolent state supervision, of course.

    You wanna get on board that ship with him? Honestly?

    This is not Rockefeller’s first walk around the I Hate The First Amendment block. He’s tried for years to expand the FCC’s powers to enable them to be able to control content on cable, no doubt so that Important Senators can lean on them to use said power. He has failed. And the reason those rules don’t apply in the first place are as I have stated above. The public does not own the cable networks that carry the cable channels, so the basis for the regulation is not there.

  17. daniel noe Says:

    Shutting down propaganda outlets might not be so bad if I was the one doing it – but if that was the case I’d have to shut down the entire federal government.

  18. Tillyosu Says:

    Well, I think everyone has adequately pointed out the total idiocy of this post, and did a better job at it than I could. Still, I found this comment very interesting, and very revealing:

    Basically, if you believe that the country and its resources belong to the citizens of that country, then no private organization can outright “own” something like a channel. Sure, they can rent it, but it’s not theirs. If you believe that a private organization can own that space in perpetuity, then I’m not sure that this discussion can go any further.

    Is this really what you believe Justin? I mean, I knew you were a liberal in moderate’s clothing, but I didn’t know you were an outright communist in moderate’s clothing (yes, I went there).

    But the fact that you don’t see the hypocrisy in your post is quite amusing to me. You see because at the end of the day, there is very little difference between Fox News, and your own blog. Your content is carried along the very same lines, after all. Fox claims to be “fair and balanced,” as do you. You both offer political commentary.

    So tell me Justin, why should the FCC not require you to get a license to run this blog, and then have the power to control the content therein? I mean, how can you possible own the “donklephant.com” name. There’s only one of them after all, and it should belong to the people (have you ever noticed that to everyone, “the people” is everyone but themselves?). Indeed, this blog masquerades as a moderate blog, but is obviously run by a communist. I think that since you are using a public resource (donklephant.com) to perpetuate a fraud, this blog should be shut down. After all, it is OUR right to control the use and disposition of OUR resources.

    Ahh and here comes your objection – But if you don’t like my blog, you’re free to not read it or to start your own. PRECISELY. That is precisely why the FCC does not, and should not, control you OR Fox News. But you see, turning off Fox News is not good enough for you. Why? Because your voice is only one among millions. And since the vast majority of those millions (Fox News is, after all, the #1 cable news outlet) disagree with you, you must co-opt the power they have granted their government to impose your idea of Fair and Balanced on everyone else. After all, you know better than the masses right? These are all just idiots being duped by Fox News, and you’re here to rescue them right?

    I’m surprised to see this kind of communist fetishism on this blog.

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