To: Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC Commissioner, Ajit Pai, FCC Commissioner, and Tom Wheeler, Incoming Chair, Federal Communications Commission
Tell the FCC: Talk Radio is NOT Bonafide News!
The FCC must use its power to draw a clear distinction between fact and opinion in order to protect the public's access to "bonafide" news on our public airwaves. Safeguarding the public interest is the FCC’s sacred obligation.
FCC Commissioners: Please stand up to the media corporations that want to control what "We the People" can hear on our public airwaves. Don't allow them to make a mockery of America's First Amendment by conferring "bonafide news" status on talk radio, or by granting entertainers like Rush Limbaugh equal status with legitimate news reporters.
Why is this important?
America's broadcast airwaves belong to "We the People." Radio stations are licensed to use our airwaves if - and only if - they serve the public's best interest. That means giving an unbiased account of the news of the day, and during elections, affording both major political party's candidates and their supporters equal time.
During the 2012 Scott Walker recall campaign in Wisconsin, Milwaukee AM radio station WTMJ used its local talk radio shows to exclusively promote Republican Governor Scott Walker and his supporters, while refusing time to his Democratic opponent and his supporters.
Media Action Center documented and then tallied every minute of on air "promotion" of Walker and filed a challenge to WTMJ's license for failure to serve the public interest as defined by the FCC.
Now, WTMJ's parent company, Journal Communications, is fighting back. Journal Communications owns 15 television stations and 35 radio stations in 12 states. They are arguing that talk radio show hosts may use our public airwaves to exclusively promote candidates of one party because the shows are the same as “bonafide news.” The bonafide news term refers to an exemption from the "equal time" rule that broadcast media gets when it is covering a candidate in a legitimate news situation, such as a public event or campaign stop, or when it is airing a documentary type program.
Conservative Talk Radio have been using our publicly owned airwaves to push a one-sided political agenda. Now they are asking the FCC to legally define this one-sided rhetoric as "Bonafide news."
If the FCC redefines editorial opinion as "news," it will sound the death knell for truth in journalism as we know it. A Pew study revealed that already, nearly a quarter of the population believes that talk radio is in fact "news." That's a scary statistic – and one we can't afford to let grow.
Talk radio combines fact with fiction, making it impossible for listeners to discern which is which. It is irresponsible, it's manipulative, and it's a violation of the rules that govern our public airwaves.
One thing it is not: news.