Accuracy in Media

Now we know the real agenda. The civil rights agitators like Al Sharpton are exploiting the Don Imus controversy in order to increase the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over what is said on television and radio. You will notice in his various utterances that Sharpton explicitly refers to the FCC having the “regulations” and power to do its job. He talks about the need for a “regulatory policy” from the FCC. This opens the door for re-imposition of the federal Fairness Doctrine, the subject of a new report released by Accuracy in Media. Sharpton’s rhetoric in the Imus affair was as predictable as night follows day. 

It’s no secret that the liberal-left loves federal power. And we know, based on what occurred at the recent “progressive” conference on “media reform,” which featured Jesse Jackson and Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, that they want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine in order to force conservative programs to grant them more air time. But it wasn’t exactly clear how they intended to bring this about. Now, with the Imus controversy, we know. 

The effort, as Sharpton has indicated, will include codes of conduct, promulgated by the FCC, regarding what can and cannot be said on the public airwaves. Offenders will be punished with fines or revoked licenses. On CNN with Wolf Blitzer, Sharpton declared:

“What we’re talking about is public policy. There’s no way the airwaves should be used to allow people to call people ‘nappy-headed hos.’ That’s what he called these people. And for him to say that and to just walk away like, ‘I’m just sorry, I made a mistake,’ would then mean that the FCC, who regulates everything on the airwaves and who sanctioned?Janet Jackson with a wardrobe malfunction, has no purpose at all.”

So the FCC’s ability under the law to fine CBS for Janet Jackson exposing her breast on television during the Super Bowl should translate into the ability to fine and punish Don Imus?and others like him?for what they say on the air. Sharpton declared that “the real question is whether the FCC is sincere about having regulations that operate the same for everyone.” He also said, “This is about accountability and a standard on the airwaves.”

Forget about Sharpton’s complete lack of credibility on racial and other matters. He is making a point that will strike a chord with many people. And when you have a case like that of Imus, who used a national TV and radio show to insult some female student athletes by making fun of their race, gender and physical appearances, you have the potential ingredients for congressional hearings by a Democratic congress into what should be regulated in the media. After all, here you have a national radio host, courtesy of GE and CBS, attacking a group of people who were in no position to respond. The Rutgers team didn’t have a radio or TV show. They have subsequently gotten a national platform because of the coverage of the incident,   but they didn’t have one in the beginning. That is the rationale, as Sharpton sees it, for the federal government to intervene and give them a platform. 

Under the Sharpton view of what the FCC should be able to do, perhaps under a Fairness Doctrine, bureaucrats would have the power to order Imus or his employers to grant air time to members of the Rutgers squad.  

The Imus affair is what proponents of the Fairness Doctrine have been looking for. For them, “hate speech” includes much of what is on conservative radio. So it’s a short leap from suspending or firing Imus to going after people like Rush Limbaugh. Indeed, one blogger on the liberal Huffington Post website writes that “I think Rush Limbaugh is significantly more hateful than Don Imus and his past comments have been demonstrably more racist.” It is no coincidence that one reader at the website, in posting a comment about the Imus controversy, put in a long plug for the Fairness Doctrine, noting that “The 2007 Democratic Congress is currently working” to restore it. 

On one liberal website, a former staffer to a Democratic Senator declared that “There is a cancer in some segments of the media, and the cancer will spread, until it is removed.” But he not only cited Imus, he cited the much-publicized insults that Ann Coulter directed against a group of 9/11 widows. 

If you go to the website of Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey, you will see that his “top issue” is his proposed Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA), “which seeks to restore integrity and diversity to America’s media system?” The Fairness Doctrine is part of the Hinchey bill. Notice the reference to restoring “diversity” to the media. Is it any surprise that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have also been complaining about a paucity of black faces on the MSNBC network? They see the Imus controversy as a great opportunity not only to get themselves more air time but possibly get their own TV shows sponsored by the Big Media.

In fact, Sharpton and Jackson already have their own radio shows. The “Al Sharpton Show” is in 21 markets and Jackson’s “Keep Hope Alive” radio program is said to be airing in over 40 markets, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Philadelphia, Houston and Atlanta. But that’s not good enough for them. Don’t be surprised if Sharpton or Jackson, or both, emerge as special paid commentators or “analysts” on MSNBC. Or they could even get their own shows on the network. I wouldn’t be surprised if negotiations aren’t already underway.  

So there you have it. Led by Al Sharpton, the new hero of the “media reform” movement, the left has tasted blood. If they can bring down or at least humiliate Imus, they can go after others, probably with congressional support. And that means a number of conservative hosts already found “guilty” of racism, sexism, homophobia and other sins will be standing in line to be pilloried. 

The House domestic policy subcommittee chaired by Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich will be the most likely venue. One of many liberal House members with an almost insatiable appetite for media attention (and who even appears on the Fox News Channel), Kucinich is a Fairness Doctrine supporter who claims jusrisdiction over the FCC

After Imus is brought before Congress to testify about the use of the public airwaves and demonstrate more contrition, Limbaugh will be next. Don’t rule out a subpoena for the conservative talk-show host. From the Democrats’ point of view, it promises to be bigger than the baseball steroids hearing. They won’t be able to resist it.

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