To put it bluntly, the news media in the United States has steadily declined to the point where it is little more than a series of propaganda wings for corporations and special interests. This is not to say that many providers are lying outright, but the full picture is often ignored and information skewed to fit the editorial biases either of a particular ideology or the financial interests of the parent companies. As our Founding Fathers were aware when they made the media the only industry mentioned directly in the Constitution, a free and fair press that can report the facts and speak truth to power is vital to the functioning of a democracy.
Toward that end, I propose the restoration of competitive rules in place prior to the Reagan and Clinton administrations, both of which eased restrictions on mergers and removed things like the Fairness Doctrine that were so important in maintaining the integrity of our elections. Where both candidates and issues alike are concerned, news organizations should be required to maintain balance and present competing viewpoints. The current system prizes the free speech of corporations over the public interest, which has the overall effect of limiting freedom of speech for ordinary Americans who lack the financial resources to start a competing news network.
In addition, news organizations should be required to enforce a strict “firewall” between their ownership and their editorial boards, such that advertising and corporate interests not influence the content. What the American public needs is the news, not more celebrity entertainment masquerading as news, and certainly not an avalanche of thinly-veiled sponsored content. If it proves impossible for a news organization to maintain editorial freedom, breaking up those massive corporations should be considered as falling within the public interest. As it stands, just six mega-corporations control 90% of the media consumed by Americans. That may itself present a significant threat to democracy, and the problems of consolidation and content-influence must be examined by the Congress.
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