Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ever Wonder About Media Bias? Two

Broadcasters, even with the best intentions, face incredible pressures to meet the rules and regulations of their Master, the Federal Communications Commission.

Who is it that owns a radio or television station? The costs and expenses of owning a broadcast facility are enormous. To be fair, the costs of owning and operating a radio station are clearly lower than the costs associated with operating a television station. Given, that the television station is in a large market. There are small, rural television stations that make do with budgets that almost unseemly, when compared to major market television stations. But, small market TV does make do. Locally produced shows show the lack of technical quality of the major stations, but they exist. Local television, whether in small markets or LPTV stations exist, and fill a niche for their viewers. Is it "HD" TV? Nope. But, putting pictures together with content is still an important source of information for the viewer. A camera that would have cost $15-thousand dollars fifteen years ago is one helluva camera. Video toasters are a dime a dozen, today. Good shooting, decent graphics, point is, whether you're small market or LPTV, you can perform for pennies on the dollar for what is produced by major market television stations.

And yet, most of the rules, of either television or radio, are the same. The guidelines for what a radio or television must do--repeat MUST DO--are typically the same in each and any occasion. There are a few exemptions, such as the radio or television station that employs fewer than five employees. And yes, I'm sure that there are television stations with fewer than five, full-time employees. (There are some clear bifurcations of the rules governing television and radio, and maybe I'm "stepping in it," but from my past brushes with FCC regs, I don't think I'm mis-characterising the situation. If I am, sorry. Do some research, that at this moment, I'm unwilling to do. Laziness.)

Last post, I wrote about how the FCC required broadcasters to demonstrate their adherence to rules that purport to advance a notion of community outreach. This is an important issue, since it relates to why the media has the bias it has, when reporting current events, or more importantly, how it reports the news. Diversity is the aim of current FCC regs, and the question must be asked, why?

How is it that a broadcaster must address issues of diversity, when that broadcaster is engaged in serving a certain number of viewers/listeners in his broadcast footprint?

This is a copy of a coverage map for KGW television (RabbitEars.Info)

What kind of diversity exists within the area described by this map? The Great Northwest! Portlandia!

Not much. Seventy-three percent white. Nine percent Hispanic or Latino. Eight percent Asian. Eight percent Black. About three percent from the Tribes. Three and an half percent, anything else.

But, that's just race. When it comes to sex, men are the minority, with a ration for every 100 women 18+, there are 97.8 males. When it comes to age, those who are between the ages of 25 to 44 are the plurality, with 34.7 percent of the population. 18 to 24, ten-point-three. 45-64, 22.4 percent, and around eleven and a half percent for people 65 and older.

A government mandated policy of diversity would needs include such statistical data. But, what about religious discrimination? What about education discrimination? What about sexual preference discrimination?

What would a "perfectly diverse" company look like? In my opinion, like a zoo. Representative elements from each of these "diverse" populations. It's not my opinion of what a company should even attempt to adopt. What value can there be to a company, to be able to show diversity, without showing that there are elements of cohesion that drive the company? Are those elements of cohesion racial, sexual, gender purity?

Of course not. That's nutty. But the Commission's take on diversity is therefore, nutty, too.That no one is willing to take on the Commission speaks volumes for the power the Commission has over Broadcasters. And as re-licensing time is just around the corner for broadcaster in this state, adherence to the intent of the Commission is firmly in the minds of those who operate broadcast operations within the state.

On the 17th, the FCC announced a new audit for broadcasters. Two-hundred radio stations and 75 television stations are to be audited by the FCC to "assure the FCC" about these stations' compliance with the Commission's EEO rules "requiring wide dissemination of information about job openings and supplemental efforts to educate their communities about job opportunities in the media industry." (Broadcast Law Blog.)

Hit the link, and follow the links on their page. And imagine, if you will, the effects of these rules on your business, were you to engage in such simple things as making widgets, shoes, or growing potatoes.

How does the FCC get away with requiring such things as "wide dissemination" and "supplemental efforts"? Because Broadcasters don't have First Amendment Rights. Broadcasters can't defend themselves against intrusive regulations from the FCC behind the cover of the First Amendment. Broadcasters don't have a First Amendment guarantee of freedom. They, instead, have duties. Duties described by FCC regulations. And one of the more important duties of Broadcasters is to insure that they are not complicit with any effort to restrict the diversity of its employees, or of its programming. (Slippery Slope warning; there is not yet a rule in effect that requires Broadcasters to demonstrate that their programming matches their program content with the rules for outreach to diverse groups in their hiring practices. But that step is on the lips of every Commissioner, and every owner of any Broadcast property.)

The camel's nose is in the tent. Broadcasters, and the businesses that they have built to educate, inform and entertain us, stands on the edge of a precipice. Broadcasters, being timid, are attempting to hold at bay the rules that would take from them the principles of good service to their clients, whether viewers/listeners, or advertisers. No Broadcaster of any sense at all would wish to offend any segment of a possible viewer/listener base. But, let's be practical; to be Number One means providing service to the greatest number possible, whether viewers or listeners. That certain segments of the population would, therefore, be under-served speaks not about the failure of Broadcasters to work to provide the best possible service to their communities, but more about the "under-served" population to adopt the values and expectations of the dominant mores of the community that surrounds them.

Pay special attention to the link "Today's Public Notice announcing the audit, containing the form audit letter and listing the stations subject to the audit is here ." Click the link. These radio and television stations must be s*itting bricks. None of the rules promulgated by the Commission gives anyone adequate notice of what compliance is. If you're in a town of five thousand people, most of whom are church going, white folks, what kind of diversity outreach is necessary to comply with the Commission's rules? If there's one gay guy, do you need to have a gay outreach? If there's one embittered Socialist, must you have a Socialist outreach? Do you have an atheist? A retired union representative?

What clear meaning do the rules of the Commission have?

Well...none. But they are the rules. And, the rules must be enforced. And there is no argument with the Commission. They, after all, hold the keys to your license renewal. And all the time, effort and expense the owners of these broadcast outlets are held to the whims of the Commission.

And you wonder why Broadcasters are reluctant to voice clear concerns over the actions and efforts of the elites in our governments? Threaten a Broadcaster's license, and you control the behaviour of the Licensee.


MAX Redline said...

According to figures I read yesterday, the average age of residents in the Portland metro area is 36 - which explains a lot.

On licensing: "diversity" is really big in all levels of government these days, which in my experience translates into "playing to the lowest common denominator". This guarantees low quality. That also explains a lot. This is an important tool for promotion of growth of government: a job that was done by one person 15 years ago now requires at least two incompetents; often more. Naturally, this requires the hiring of additional middle managers, ad infinitum.

We remind you that you must post your most recent EEO public file report on your website by
the deadline by which it must be placed in the public file, in accordance with 47 C.F.R. §
73.2080(c)(6). This will be examined as part of the audit. Failure to post the required report on
a station website is a violation of the EEO Rule and subject to sanctions, including a forfeiture.

Having and maintaining a website or a corporate site is now an FCC requirement for broadcasters?

Gotta keep the bureaucrats busy....

Ten Mile Island said...

Stations are not, yet, required to have a website. But, if they do, there are requirements as to what is provided by those websites.

If Station KXYZ does not have a website, but is owned by a company that does, then the corporate website must provide all the information requested. What information must be posted is changing, and the Commission is working toward imposing rules that cross the bounds of what is, and isn't, reasonable policies on posting certain types of information.

MAX Redline said...

Yeah, but the first part of the letter seems to assume the existence of a corporate website for a broadcaster - further down, it states that if a website is owned by a broker or proxy, then they must post the information demanded. That seems a bit over-reaching.

Ten Mile Island said...

Most people don't know what a brokerage agreement is, so that was kinda "inside baseball." The deal is, whether or not you're a licensee of the FCC, or operating under a time-brokerage agreement with a broadcaster, if the Mario Andretti of sales walked through your door, you couldn't hire him. You would have to wait until you went through the entire process; notify all the groups you rely on for outreach to respond before any full-time hire, and then show that you didn't discriminate in hiring that "Mario" guy.

Really senseless waste of time, but the orders must be obeyed.