Why would any broadcast company tend to ignore certain tendencies of our national life?
As newspapers decline in importance, we keep looking toward the electronic media to give us the kind of information that we need to have, in order to make intelligent decisions. And yet, it seems, that every day we find ourselves watching Suzy Cutie and Howie Handsome on the Idiot Box, telling us about kittens caught in trees, and the valiant efforts of local fire crews coming to the rescue.
Is there a dumb pill out there?
There is a reason why major newsrooms fail to provide information that you and I need to have to make intelligent decisions. The reason? The Federal Communications Commission.
Let's look at some of the language found in FCC Form 396 (pdf):
"Broadcast station licensees are required to afford equal employment opportunity to all qualified persons and to refrain from discriminating in employment and related benefits on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. See 47 C.F.R. Section 73.2080. Pursuant to these requirements, a license renewal applicant whose station employment unit employs five or more full-time station employees must file a report of its activities to ensure equal employment opportunity. If a station employment unit employs fewer than five full-time employees, no equal employment opportunity program information need be filed. If a station employment unit is filing a combined report, a copy of the report must be filed with each station's renewal application.
"A copy of this report must be kept in the station's public file. These actions are required to obtain license renewal. Failure to meet these requirements may result in sanctions or license renewal being delayed or denied. These requirements are contained in 47 C.F.R. Section 73.2080 and are authorized by the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.
"DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINTS. Have any pending or resolved complaints been filed during this license term before any body having competent jurisdiction under federal, state, territorial or local law, alleging unlawful discrimination in the employment practices of the station(s)?
"If so, provide a brief description of the complaint(s), including the persons involved, the date of the filing, the court or agency, the file number (if any), and the disposition or current status of the matter."
A Silver Bullet. Apply for a broadcast job, and if you find that Lisa Takagawa got the job and you didn't, you may have a case for a discrimination complaint. If your name is Sam Jones. Or Luis Ortega. Or, if you find out that Lisa is heterosexual, and you're not. It was close to thirty years ago, when I got hit with a discrimination complaint. A young man alleged that I gave full-time employment to a young woman, because she would "do me" and he wouldn't. Imagine the embarrassment that a General Manager of any broadcast company would need to feel, to be required to provide a brief description of this complaint?
Why would a federal agency want to have this type of embarrassment filed?
Well, they spell it out later, in their form:
"The FCC is authorized under the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, to collect the personal information we request in this report. We will use the information you provide to determine if the benefit requested is consistent with the public interest. If we believe there may be a violation or potential violation of a FCC statute, regulation, rule or order, your request may be referred to the Federal, state or local agency responsible for investigating,prosecuting, enforcing or implementing the statute, rule, regulation or order. In certain cases, the information in your request may be disclosed to the Department of Justice or a court or adjudicative body when (a) the FCC; or (b) any employee of the FCC; or (c) the United States Government, is a party to a proceeding before the body or has an interest in the proceeding. In addition, all information provided in this form will be available for public inspection. If you owe a past due debt to the federal government, any information you provide may also be disclosed to the Department of Treasury Financial Management Service, other federal agencies and/or your employer to offset your salary, IRS tax refund or other payments to collect that debt. The FCC may also provide this information to these agencies through the matching of computer records when authorized. If you do not provide the information requested on this report, the report may be returned without action having been taken upon it or its processing may be delayed while a request is made to provide the missing information. Your response is required to obtain the requested authority."
A broadcasting license is worth millions of dollars. A broadcast station's newscasts can form a basis for a discrimination complaint. There are a lot more rules about who you can hire, and more importantly, how you can hire, that I haven't posted here. Maybe later.
But you wonder why broadcast TV and radio fail to inform the public?
One last thought; broadcasters have no "freedom of expression" guarantees. Since radio and television stations receive grants of authority to broadcast from the federal government, the language and ideas expressed must meet the standards of communication set out by the Federal Communications Commission.
No wonder they want to control the internet.