Obama: 'Time to censor TV, radio, Internet'
by Roger E. Noutt
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama on Wednesday expanded on comments he made during a speech at Hampton University, saying citizens are unnecessarily worrying about his administration's efforts to regulate the Internet and air waves.
"Citizens who love the truth have absolutely nothing to worry about," he said. "Our purpose is to benefit the people.
"It is a consensus of the nation's most competent and knowledgeable media observers that there is an overabundance of information that is false, misleading and confusing.
"It reaches us through iPods and iPads, Xboxes and PlayStations, cell phones and computers, televisions and radios. A lot of this information is patently false, putting tremendous pressure on our country and our democracy.
"Because it is vital in a democracy for our people to base decisions upon truth and upon facts, it has become necessary to take steps to prevent the craziest claims from quickly gaining traction.
"I, therefore, am proud to announce today that the Federal Miscommunications Commiseration will take steps to ensure that information distributed to the people is accurate, reflects our highest values and supports our democracy."
FMC Director Anne T. Krist said her staff plans to use stimulus funds to hire 18,000 agents to monitor channels, stations and the Internet. She said they will block programming and websites that fail to comply with guidelines designed to reduce confusion and deception.
"We continue to see blogs and websites that question President Obama's citizenship," she said. "Such irrational and extreme expression is hurtful and serves only to divide the people. Another common violation deals with attempts to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that global warming is a serious threat that is caused by our burning of fossil fuels. Such blatant disregard for the truth will not be tolerated.
"The First Amendment ensures the freedom of the press, but electromagnetic waves are the property of the people, and it is our duty to see that they are employed in a responsible fashion."
Ed Schultz of MSNBC in March called for Democrats to control conservative talk show hosts by resurrecting the so-called Fairness Doctrine.
Few senators or congressmen will go on record to support the reestablishment of the Fairness Doctrine because it was a monumental failure.
"We support measures intended to force Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and other conservative crazies off the air," said Congressman Jay L. Byrde, member of the House Way to Our Means Committee. "We just won't call it the Fairness Doctrine. We're working on names right now, but Neutrality Under Transmission Surveillance is the working title."
The Fairness Doctrine's purpose was to force broadcasters to present both sides of an issue and to give equal air time to opposing candidates. Instead, radio and television programmers simply avoided giving either side a voice. The consequence was that political candidates were forced to buy advertising to present their positions.
"Whoever learned the truth about a politician or an issue from a TV spot?" asked Ivy Tauer of the First Amendment Foundation.
Laura Norder of the newly organized Media in Fairness for Equality Dissemination (MIFFED) said the Fairness Doctrine or a similar measure by a different name is unworkable because it would not apply to the news organizations at CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN, whose staffs are almost entirely registered Democrats.
"The major networks would continue to slant the news to favor their point of view," she said, "and they would continue to refuse to report events that favor a conservative point of view."
Senator Cole D. Swett (R-North Dakota) said Neutrality Under Transmission Surveillance (NUTS) would force conservatives off the air because radio stations could not afford to give equal time to hosts with opposing political views.
"Nobody listens to radio talk shows put on by liberals and Democrats," he said. "They're boring because they don't want to debate facts and they don't dare say what they really think. You can only listen to a liberal complain about President Bush for so long before you turn it off. If nobody listens, nobody wants to pay for advertising."
Some broadcasters seek a drastic policy shift that would allow radio and television stations to choose programming based on popularity, according to B. Saida Pointe, president of the organization, Radio Announcers Backing Independent Discourse (RABID).
"We believe that people vote for what they want on the air by watching or listening to programs they enjoy," she said. "That doesn't mean they necessarily agree with everything that is presented. When people listen to a rock group composed of drug-addicted, promiscuous musicians, that doesn't mean they agree with the performers' lifestyle.
"There are plenty of fools out there, but there are also many intelligent, independent-thinking citizens who can pretty much figure out for themselves what is true and what is false if they can choose from a menu of information sources. If the government or anybody else, such as newspaper editors or network news executives, filters the information that is presented to the public, then it becomes difficult to determine what is accurate."
Federal Internet czar Cotton R. Webb disagrees.
"The Internet is fooling millions every day," he said. "Look at all the people who believe there are Nigerian princes who want to send them money."
He said NUTS could be applied to online communications, including Twitter and email within 90 days.
"Any user who consistently ignore regulations to eliminate clearly incorrect claims from their digital communications can be shut down," he said. "Our citizens deserve the opportunity to surf the net and read emails without being bombarded by opinions that are far out of line with the mainstream."
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“The Fairness Doctrine is going to make a comeback, and the only thing that might stop it is the American people.” — Lynn Wooley.