Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Anti-Lying Laws Prevent Fox-Style News From Entering Canada

Here is a very interesting article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from The Huffington Post:
As America's middle class battles for its survival on the Wisconsin barricades -- against various Koch Oil surrogates and the corporate toadies at Fox News -- fans of enlightenment, democracy and justice can take comfort from a significant victory north of Wisconsin border. Fox News will not be moving into Canada after all! The reason: Canada regulators announced last week they would reject efforts by Canada's right wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news.

Canada's Radio Act requires that "a licenser may not broadcast....any false or misleading news." The provision has kept Fox News and right wing talk radio out of Canada and helped make Canada a model for liberal democracy and freedom. As a result of that law, Canadians enjoy high quality news coverage including the kind of foreign affairs and investigative journalism that flourished in this country before Ronald Reagan abolished the "Fairness Doctrine" in 1987. Political dialogue in Canada is marked by civility, modesty, honesty, collegiality, and idealism that have pretty much disappeared on the U.S. airwaves. When Stephen Harper moved to abolish anti-lying provision of the Radio Act, Canadians rose up to oppose him fearing that their tradition of honest non partisan news would be replaced by the toxic, overtly partisan, biased and dishonest news coverage familiar to American citizens who listen to Fox News and talk radio. Harper's proposal was timed to facilitate the launch of a new right wing network, "Sun TV News" which Canadians call "Fox News North."

Harper, often referred to as "George W. Bush's Mini Me," is known for having mounted a Bush like war on government scientists, data collectors, transparency, and enlightenment in general. He is a wizard of all the familiar tools of demagoguery; false patriotism, bigotry, fear, selfishness and belligerent religiosity.

Harper's attempts to make lying legal on Canadian television is a stark admission that right wing political ideology can only dominate national debate through dishonest propaganda. Since corporate profit-taking is not an attractive vessel for populism, a political party or broadcast network that makes itself the tool of corporate and financial elites must lie to make its agenda popular with the public. In the Unites States, Fox News and talk radio, the sock puppets of billionaires and corporate robber barons have become the masters of propaganda and distortion on the public airwaves. Fox News's notoriously biased and dishonest coverage of the Wisconsin's protests is a prime example of the brand of news coverage Canada has smartly avoided.
This article made me think - when was the last time people had faith in the news?

In a Pew Research Center survery from two years ago, public trust in the media had fallen to an all time low, with a majority of respondants believing the media is innacurate, biased, and funded by special interests (Fox News?).
On crucial measures of credibility, faith in news media eroded from the 1980s to the ’90s, then held fairly steady for several years, according to Pew surveys that have asked some of the same questions for more than two decades. But in the two years since the last survey, those views became markedly more negative.

In this year’s survey, 63 percent of respondents said news articles were often inaccurate and only 29 percent said the media generally “get the facts straight” — the worst marks Pew has recorded — compared with 53 percent and 39 percent in 2007.

Seventy-four percent said news organizations favored one side or another in reporting on political and social issues, and the same percentage said the media were often influenced by powerful interests. Those, too, are the worst marks recorded in Pew surveys.

Negative opinions grew since 2007 among both major parties, but significantly more so among Democrats. The percentage of Democrats calling the media inaccurate rose to 59, from 43; the percentage who said the media took sides rose to 67, from 54.
Lets look at a couple important years which relate to trust in media:
  • In 1987, the "Fairness Doctrine" was abolished.
  • Rush Limbaugh gained national attention in 1988.
  • Fox News Channel was launched in 1996.
  • Glenn Beck began his television career on CNN in 2006 (and Fox News in 2009).
Take into consideration these events when looking at the sharp decline of trust in the media.

Now look at how trust in the media declined compared to political affiliation.
Views of some specific news organizations split sharply along partisan lines, with differences between Republicans and Democrats often approaching 30 percentage points. Asked about CNN, MSNBC or network television news, Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to rate them favorably, and Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to see them unfavorably. Fox News was seen much more positively by Republicans, and more negatively by Democrats.
Let's not forget independent voter dissatisfaction, who view both Democrats and Republicans, "along with the news media and big business, as symptoms of the larger societal ailment."

According to 2004 party registration numbers, Democrats beat out Republicans by close to twenty million voters (72 million Democrats to 55 million Republicans and 42 million Independents).

Even though these numbers are from a couple years ago, they aren't too much different from today.

So, basically, when looking at the numbers, Republicans are in a minority and they have a negative opinion of most non-Fox news outlets.  They are also the ones who favor lying in news broadcasts, as evidenced by the push to change the Canadian law by Stephen Harper.

Why would a extremely vocal minority manufacture their media and make a push against laws that prevent deceptive broadcasting?  Could it be because in order to get their way they need propaganda?

Reminds me of the Spiral of Silence concept, where a highly vocal minority gives rise to the illusion of popularity, while the majority, in fear of offending the minority remain quiet, thus feeding into the belief that the minority represents the majority, and so the cycle goes on.  As you can see by the pie chart, Republicans represent a minority, but turn on any Fox News report and you will hear talk of how their views represent a majority of America.

Considering the rise of right-wing media and their ability to influence stories on competing networks, one could see where the distrust in media originates from and why trust has eroded so rapidly over the last 20 years.

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