Wednesday, September 29, 2004

In the wake of CBS News' "60 Minutes" controversy, an influential Republican on Tuesday said he wants to convene a Capitol Hill hearing on TV news operations after the Nov. 2 election.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chair of the House Commerce Committee, told a meeting of the TV engineering trade group MSTV in Washington that broadcast network news divisions "need to have safeguards to prevent reporters from infusing their opinions into news reports."

The lawmaker said he wanted to hear from execs of all the nets -- not just CBS -- and threatened to introduce legislation requiring TV news operations to impose safeguards against partisan bias seeping into reports....

--Variety/Yahoo News

I don't care that, as the story goes on to report, Barton "backed off the threat of legislation when pressed for specifics." I want to know why the hell he wants to waste my tax dollars and yours with this crap in the first place.

It apparently has escaped Barton's notice that for more than a decade "partisan bias" has literally been the only item on offer at most AM talk radio stations in America. Or perhaps Barton's definition of "nonpartisan" is the same as the Fox News definition of "fair and balanced": biased to the right in a way we think everyone else is biased to the left.

The U.S. once had a "fairness doctrine" that required broadcasters to provide a balance of viewpoints, on the principle that you can't truly have free speech on TV and radio because the broadcast spectrum is limited -- which it unquestionably was for decades. Barton apparently forgot that it was Saint Ronald Reagan who got rid of the fairness doctrine, on the principle (pre-Internet) that cable TV expanded the opportunity for opposing views.

I'd say we don't need a fairness doctrine these days -- broadcasting is still in the control of a few Goliaths, but broadcasters and print publishers are now too tied to the Internet to be unreachable by the hoi polloi. But I'll support government reregulation of CBS's bias if Joe Barton will support reregulation of AM radio's.

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