By Jim Watkins | September 16, 2021
A consortium of civil rights groups are headed to Washington to fundamentally transform the FCC and fix what they see is at the root of systemic racism in media, this includes radio stations, televisions and presumably it will included online since online media is a such a powerful force.
These groups include the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Union Writers Guild of America East. In all, over 100 organizations have formed to demand “ justice” because “FCC policies have built and sustained structural racism in our media system, including inequitable access to ownership opportunities for Black, Indigenous and Afro-Latinx communities.”
It’s about power, the power to dictate policy.
The FCC has actually very little function except to make sure broadcast waves are kepts free from clutter so that broadcasters don’t “step on each other.” Broadcasters are expected to follow decency standards and to provide accurate information. If they fail, they can lose the license and someone else can apply for it. Since there are only so many available frequencies, the FCC can be selective about who they assign licenses.
If it was about programming they would have no merit. iHeart Media, the nation’s largest radio group, just launched the Black Information Network; Radio One, which has served the national black community for decades, is still thriving.
What really is at stake is the power to inspect and ultimately control what goes out over the air.
Last week I told you about a new technology that scans audio content, converts to text and uses an “awareness index” that can look for designated keywords it deems improper, or possibly “toxic,” which can be used to steer ad buyers away from certain programming (like conservative talk radio for example) that can damage “the brand.”
Today, under the guise of addressing social justice concerns, FCC chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel said in a letter to lawmakers earlier this month that she has ordered an across the board review of programs and policies (emphasis mine) that could keep underserved communities from accessing FCC programs, policies, or staff. “As part of this review, the agency also is considering whether new policies, regulations or guidance may be necessary, including with respect to its media policies.”
You might recall during the Obama Administration he had wanted a similar review of what newsrooms across radio station in America were reporting on, but got a quick slap back for overreach, which many believed (including me) was politically driven.
Where will this lead?
Affirmative Action staff mandates, Affirmative action on-air programming mandates that force all broadcasters to adhere to pledging some programming promoting left-wing causes like LGBTQ advocacy, health mandates, or racial justice issues that may or may not conform to public opinion (like mask-wearing for example).
This could also open wide the door to bureaucratic mandates that require documentation or performance reviews, or drain resources on stations who are already hard-hit after the shutdowns nearly killed many broadcasters advertising revenue when businesses had to close.
Perhaps the worst outcome has to do with speech. Once the FCC begins to mandate or designate certain speech as misinformation or harmful and they can track it, broadcasters will curtail programs to prevent upsetting the social justice committee over at the FCC. This has already been happening across all radio formats to make the disc jockeys more ‘inclusive’ by staying away from keywords deemed “harmful,” or “intolerant.” You see how many hosts have lost jobs because they used the wrong vernacular during a game, or commented with a phony foreign accent during a morning show skit. Some on-air hosts were warned from using the phrases “election fraud,” after the 20201 elections. National companies even sent memo’s to on-air hosts telling them to be pro-mask mandate and pro-vaccine just to prevent pushback from woke audiences.
In full disclosure I have a horse in this race. I make a living in the Spoken Word industry. I have been in Talk Radio since the 1980’s and I believe the Talk Radio format is the last “Townhall” public forum where people can truly hear and share ideas. If you want to know what middle America thinks, listen to Talk Radio.
Many people do listen, and those on the Left hate it. This is why it has been under attack since Rush Limbaugh hit the airwaves in 1987.
But for those who love Talk Radio or feel it important to have it, it’s about free speech – and it’s getting harder and harder to find places where free speech can truly be exchanged without some fact-check social justice warrior shutting you down.
If Rush Limbaugh were here today he would tell you this story is significant, because it is.
This isn’t about Black American getting their own radio stations, this is about controlling who says what about whom, and what happens when you say the wrong thing.
Rick Klein, Executive Political News Director at ABC/Disney publicly declared he believed all people who voted for Trump “should be sent to concentration camps and be ‘cleansed’.” Joy Reid of MSNBC calls white people inherently racist and worthy of repudiation, and people with similar views continually fighting for ‘social equity’ are of the mind now to take on the FCC and remove the “systemic racism that still exists.”
It is always about power and it was only a matter of time those haters on the radio were dealt with.
Don’t kid yourself, it’s not about Black people getting their fair-share of radio ownership, it’s about shutting down the voices who disagree with theirs.