Media Blog

Al Gore Rips Reagan on Fairness Doctrine

Gooey CBS morning host Harry Smith was the latest patsy for Al Gore this morning. This is the second interview in the last few days (ABC’s Diane Sawyer was the first) in which a network anchor masochistically welcomed Gore’s attack on TV news. Of course, the ABC and CBS morning shows are stuffed with celebrity goo and dingo-ate-my-baby tragedy TV, so maybe the penance is necessary. For those who worry most about the Democrats reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, the most interesting part of the interview came in a discussion of how TV and radio are failing our democracy:

SMITH: You certainly — the news media comes under assault in your book because we seem to be so obsessed with a lot of things that tend not to matter. But one of the things that occurred to me was if, if, if part of the problem is there’s not enough of a free flow of information back and forth, which you also argue about, wouldn’t a public television show, like a Jim Lehrer, for instance, wouldn’t they have 25 million viewers every night as opposed to the several million that they have, because they do what we don’t do every day?
GORE: No, I don’t think so. The, the essential — the element of television that I think has been troubling for democracy, now that it has become the most dominant medium by far, even with the rising importance of the internet, is that it’s one way. And whether it’s public television or commercial television or whatever —
SMITH: Right.
GORE: — Or community access television. When it’s one way —
SMITH: Radio — radio is one way. If you look back —
GORE: It is —
SMITH: — Some of the greatest presidents of, of our democracy — or the republic happened during the age of radio. That was a one way.
GORE: The most popular radio format simulates two-way communication by having call-ins. But you’re quite right, that radio preceded television as the first broadcast medium.
SMITH: Right.
GORE: And the first concerns among defenders of democracy arose with radio. And that’s why the equal time provision and the Fairness Doctrine and the public interest standard were put in place here. Those protections were almost completely removed during President Reagan’s term.

Tim Graham — Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center, where he began in 1989, and has served there with the exception of 2001 and 2002, when served ...

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