Saturday, September 22, 2007

A brief history of the "unbiased" news media

For most of America's history, as in Europe to this day, the news media were reasonably honest about their partisanship. We have, however, had a period of several decades during which newsmen pretended to be "unbiased." Why did this happen? Edward B. Driscoll, Jr. has a theory. He attributes it to the rise of radio in the 1920s and the decision of the US government not to auction off radio frequencies but rather to license and regulate radio stations. License renewal required government approval. To be achieve approval, radio stations and, later, TV stations had to claim to be operating in the public interest. From this came the convenient claim that their news was "unbiased." In practice, of course, this meant that news was biased in a way that government bureaucrats would approve of. Newspapers, while not subject to the same licensing procedure, found such a claim good marketing and adopted it as well.

Recently, two things changed. First, the fairness doctrine was repealed. This enabled radio, mostly AM radio, to create a talk format that offered new voices and attracted a large audience. Second, the internet also allowed many new and unregulated news voices to be heard. This included news aggregators such as the Drudge Report and opinion sites such as Instapundit. One thing that these sources have made obvious is the fraudulence of the legacy news media's claim to be "unbiased."

I believe that liberals honestly believe that they can present "unbiased" news. This is because liberals believe that their world view is the only correct world view: no balancing is necessary. Consequently, I expect that their news outlets will continue to claim to be "unbiased" for a long time to come.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics