Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ever Wonder About Media Bias?

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."

"Discrimination Complaints."

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.


g said...

I watched media bias yesterday on CNBC when the dow hit 13000.

I thought they were going to giz themselves.

Too bad the value of 13000 aint what it used to be.

MAX Redline said...

Your compainant had few options. Today, he'd claim that you discriminated against him because he's gay.

T. D. said...

Control comes in many forms. Making people unsure of what is legal behavior and turning complaints into easy law suits are among the most invidious of control tools.

Ten Mile Island said...


Thing is, he wasn't gay. (Not that that's a good thing. See what I did there?)

He was motivated by family, who were connected with the victim class. He was getting fewer hours, therefore, he must be a victim. Finding out what type of victim he must be was a fishing expedition. While I fended off his complaint, the essential part is, as a broadcaster, having a complaint filed about this MUST be revealed when it comes to the time when I must file for re-licensing. It is a black mark. Whether or not I fended off the complaint isn't material. That I had such a complaint, is.

The rules for broadcasters are not those unlike the Torquemada. How does it go? If she floats, she must be a witch?

Ten Mile Island said...


Eggzactly. There is so much uncertainty, and so much money, involved in Broadcasting, that few Broadcast managers are going to take risks that could affect them during their renewal period.

Accurate complaints are less important than would be the volume of complaints. Tomorrow, I hope to write about how the Left attempts to become militant, and hope to ask the question, if the Commission has an agenda, would it find Fellow Traveler assertions of mis-doing compelling?

MAX Redline said...

My point was not whether or not the guy was actually gay - merely that today, he need only assert that he is (or bisexual, or transgender, or...). The idea, here, is merely to weaponize, regardless of the merits or lack thereof, the complaint itself. A complainant today has access to a larger arsenal of such tools.

Ten Mile Island said...


You hit it exactly right. The rules being promulgated and enforced create an atmosphere of concern which borders on fear for station management and owners.

If a broadcaster has beliefs that are strongly held, can those strongly held beliefs be shown as evidence of his failure to perform his community outreach responsibilities? And what happens if a motivated "viewer/listener" suggests to the Commission that Station KXYZ has failed to provide access to promote beliefs (or behaviours or lifestyles) that contradict the strongly held beliefs of the particular broadcaster?

You ever wonder about media bias? Broadcasters cannot simply serve on the basis of their own held beliefs. Doing so can place one in jeopardy.