Well....it's not really an act passed by the House or Senate....to be honest about it.
What got out of the bag in the last couple of days is this gimmick of the Federal Communications Commission....a study to be run by a contractor organization....to examine all news networks and how they produce the news.
Naturally, you'd sit there and ask some stupid questions.
The quote here for the cause of this study? "The FCC must emphatically insist that we leave no American behind when it comes to meeting the needs of those in varied and vibrant communities of our nation -- be they native born, immigrant, disabled, non-English speaking, low-income, or other." The quote was made by Ms Mignon Clyburn....acting chair of the FCC (a five-person committee that runs the commission).
What exactly are they looking at? Well.....transportation reporting, educational reporting, emergency reporting, health reporting, economic reporting, civic reporting, political reporting, and environmental reporting.
A guy would look at this and get the feeling that if the contractor team shows up and the target network is screwing up on two or three of these areas....the FCC would go after them.
Somewhere in the mix of comments made about this episode....there was bit put out there about perceived response to underserved community.
All of this gets political folks riled up (from both Republicans and Democrats), and from journalists themselves.
A tool to be misused? Well....if this was sharpen enough.....then some folks (Fox News for example) would feel pain from now until 2016. Then....with a probable Republican president in office....the twist would occur, and some other networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN) would feel the pain.
I think the journalists are shocked more than anyone else. To have someone sitting in your review area....asking stupid questions....as a contractor for the government and wanting to know why you don't talk more about the environment or hype up educational benefits for non-resident Americans....well...it's just inviting hostility and anger.
Descending upon newspapers? No. The FCC has no control over newspapers. That's the comical side of this.
So, a bit of history. Around 1912....it was now obvious that radio stations were going to exist, and the federal government felt that it needed to "control" them. So Congress passed an act, which led to the Commerce Department being the overseer of the growth and management of operations.
The Commerce Department reached a point where they probably admitted that day-to-day monitoring and the political dynamics of the mess....was too much. So the chief of the Commerce Department (Herbert Hoover at the time).....came to suggest that Congress ought to create a commission to handle the job.
So was born the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) in 1927. This commission had a lot of powers....but they couldn't censor anyone (at least in theory). Bad language could get your station into trouble....indecent commentary was another point which would drag you in front of the commission.
A great deal of bickering occurred right around this time-period....mostly fights over regional air-control and domination. At the time....over the entire US....there were a total of 164 radio stations. What the FRC did was drag the 164 stations into the room and basically say they needed to clean up or be shut down. The lower-powered and more independent stations in urban areas.....got shut down. You can guess that some political manipulation was underway, and the independent stations just weren't savvy to the discussion.
By the end of 1928....there were roughly eighty stations left. Yeah....that cut down competition big-time.
This period of low-competition lasted for around four years, and by 1932....the FRC went into a bold issue period. Around 625 stations were licensed to operate. On top of that....another thirty-odd thousand amateur stations (Ham Radio) received a license to operate.
The FRC lasted until 1932....when the FCC was created. It's hard to say why the FRC dissolved although it's curious to note that the first TV station license occurred in 1928 (Charles Jenkins Labs) and some folks might have realized the quick nature that led to radios being across America....would occur with the TV networks as well.
The necessity for government control? In the very beginning....there was this great fear of immoral talk, bad behavior by network bosses, and the quick nature of the public to absorb what was being said. Before radio.....you could make some commentary via your local newspaper....but it stayed local. National items might have flowed via your local paper.....but a great deal depended upon readers and their ability to assimilate facts and bogus claims.
Radio changed that. One guy could make a pretty slanted comment, and twenty million Americans along the entire west coast could hear that, and get charged up.
TV changed it even more.....one guy could make a pretty slanted comment, two-hundred million Americans, along with another two-hundred million non-Americans.....could hear it and get charged up.
Sadly, as manipulation goes with networks....it's just as big with political figures who run the FCC. At the root....is this vast ocean of manipulators....each trying to out-manipulate each other, and to do so....in the public's interest. Sadly, we have no Pizza Baking Commission....to federally manipulate the size, quality, make-up, taste, or safety of pizza. Maybe that's a good thing. I should note....we've yet to create a NCAA Bowl Comission (NBC) to control the national bowl selection process, or to ensure Alabama is always ranked one or two in the process.
So, rest and sleep comfortably tonight....in that no American....will be left behind....somewhere.