June 14, 2022

The left-wing media, as well as their cohorts among elected officials and irate individuals in the Twitterverse are all a-twitter about how Fox News is somehow violating a sacred public trust.  They allegedly did this by not programming gavel-to-gavel coverage of the intensely stage-managed hearings on the so-called January 6 “insurrection …”

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These hearings are non-news, presented as a critical national issue of insurrection and treason.  As if eight hundred or so unarmed individuals could topple the government – defended by 1.3 million active duty soldiers, sailors, Air Force personnel and Marines, along with more than 800,000 reserve forces – by merely physically occupying the building for a short period of time.  And, as if, by not programming this blanket coverage, Fox News is betraying the public trust, thus somehow depriving people of access to these hearings.   

This is utter nonsense on several points.

First, and most obvious, there was never an existential insurrection. The country was never in any danger.  Realistically, far more damage was done to the public good by the “occupy” forces which claimed so much media attention and far-left support half a decade ago. Yet they were never charged with insurrection, even while calling for the downfall of our current system of government.

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Next, even without Fox News, there is not any lack of news coverage of the hearings.   The following broadcast and cable networks are providing wall-to-wall coverage of these non-news “hearings” being stage-managed by a partisan Hollywood consultant.  These include:  Fox Business, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and other, lesser cable news outlets, such as CNBC.  So, any suggestion that Fox News was denying access to the hearings is outrageous.

Third, and – in my opinion – more important, the railing masses claim Fox News has a legal obligation to carry such a newsworthy event.  Pardon me, but … poppycock!  Utter nonsense.  Here’s the truth behind that charge. 

Broadcast networks have an ill-defined and seldom-enforced legal requirement to broadcast in the public interest.  However, cable news networks have no such requirement. Period. 

So what has that to do with Fox News?   It could be argued that the broadcast media – those who send their programs out over radio or television frequencies – have such a requirement.  After all, those frequencies that are legally-deemed as owned by the public.  Beginning in the mid-30s,, the broadcast stations and networks were required by the Congressionally-passed and Presidentially-signed Communications Act of 1934 to “broadcast in the public interest.”   In this law, the FCC was given the role of enforcing such “public interest” broadcasting.  Why?  Because with the advent of radio – and later television – countries around the world, the US included, all agreed that these broadcast waves were “owned” by the public, or by the state on behalf of the public.  This was written into law, and stood the challenge of court hearings by stations and networks who resented this “in the public interest” requirement.  Yet since the 1930s, this has been accepted law here in the United States.

I learned of this, and of its importance, while studying journalism in college in the late sixties and early seventies.  Yeah, I come from the “old school” – defined as what colleges taught aspiring journalists before Woodward and Bernstein.  Their media-adored role in getting rid of Nixon also upended the very concept that reporters (and their stations or networks) were expected to stay carefully neutral in public-issue debates. 

For example, the fabled “most trusted man in America,” Walter Cronkite, was a news broadcaster from the 1940s through the 1980s.  For that whole time, nobody really accused this “dean of network news” of having a political bias, one way or the other.  Only after he’d retired did he let slip that he’d been a “biased liberal,” as revealed in historian Douglas Brinkley’s blockbuster, “Cronkite.”  His broadcasts leaned left, but he did this so carefully and adroitly that it was never an issue, not even among rock-ribbed conservatives of the time.