The Work Ahead

February opens on a snowy note here in the soybean field. This last weekend’s storm dropped a bit under seven inches of the white stuff on us. We’re shoveled out and the roads are clear, so we’ll get out this afternoon when the wind chill dissipates a bits.

Until then, we have some things to check off the to-do list. Run the dishwasher; do a couple of five-minute organization blitzes; tweet, call and email Congress Rep. Underwood and Senators Duckworth and Durbin.

The last task is the most vital. I can always use paper plates and have no shame about eating out of pots. Piles of bank statements and magazines have been in their spaces this long and leaving them there a bit longer won’t harm anything. Those detract from the quality of my personal life, but those can be easily solved.

Preserving democracy, however, is another matter. It’s not just me or my cohort wave who would be impacted if the lines don’t get established in bold red strokes. It would mean that my nephew, my niece, their descendants, and generations to come would be in a struggle to survive under authoritarianism all because a large group of the gullible and the racist were pulled into a vortex of conspiracy theories, disinformation, and hate.

What, then, needs to be done to close the black hole?

One thing that would go a long way is reinstating the Fairness Doctrine and update it for the digital age. The Fairness Doctrine went on the books in 1949. It required broadcasters to present issues of public interest from different points of view. In 1987, the FCC repealed it. That lead to monopolizing of media outlets and a lack of diverse viewpoints, making it too easy for news to turn into propaganda. And making it too easy for right wing hate speech to take over the airwaves in some rural areas.

The other thing that needs doing is educating the public on critical thinking skills when it comes to media consumption. Finland (https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2019/05/europe/finland-fake-news-intl/ ) has a whole school curriculum that was developed in 2015 with the rise of trolls and bots to help students vet information presented on the internet. Could the same be done here for the current K-12 group, and could it be slipped into the adult population via PSAs?

Would it hurt to try? I don’t think so.

These are at the top of my personal list as well as bringing back civics classes so the populace actually understands how government works, and knows how the three branches of government function, and demand that they do so as intended.

And making sure that people get fed.

And housed, and…and…

It’s a long list. We’d better get started.

If you need me, I’ll be over here having my soup out of the pot.

The PICAN Having Not So Much To Do With Pies But Much With The Fairness Doctrine And Bruce Springsteen

Public

Interest

Convenience

And

Necessity.

PICAN. That was the intended purpose of broadcasting back in the dawn of the radio and TV era. That everyone would have equal access and opportunity to watch news, sports, and entertainment. And coupled with the Fairness Doctrine, news would be as unbiased as possible, showing different sides to an issue.

That’s what I was told in my first broadcasting classes back in the early ’80s. Later in the decade, the cable companies, Wall Street, and Reagan’s cronies decided otherwise. The Fairness Doctrine was repealed. And somewhere along the line, the rules about how many outlets per market could be owned by a given company (back at the dawn of time in my freshman year, it was any combination of papers, radio and TV stations totaling up to seven) were blurred or obliterated. So much for balance and diversity.

And now we have Fifty Seven Channels and Nothing’s On thanks to cable and dish providers. Well, more like a couple of hundred in some localities. How many of these channels serve the PICAN is beyond me. Some of the channels I wouldn’t mind, such as Starz for their adaptations of Philippa Gregory’s novels about the Plantagent dynasty, or HBO for “Game of Thrones.” But pay for programming with no redeeming value like “Honey Boo Boo” or propaganda like certain news outlets? No. That was never supposed to be part of the plan.

There are times when cable is needed. My paternal grandmother lived in western Massachusetts in a pretty small town about six miles south of the Vermont border. Between the remoteness and the mighty shielding power of the granite mountains, any kind of decent  over the air TV signal was an impossibility. With the help of (very) basic cable, she could get the stations from Albany (40 miles south), Boston (three hours east) and New York (about three and a half hours southeast). It provided her with news, entertainment, and her Red Sox games. I think we had a choice of twelve channels. Gram mostly filled her days by reading the paper, visiting her friends and relatives within walking distance. TV was limited to her quiz shows and a handful of series. That’s all she needed.

That was back in the ’70s. The ’80s opened up a wild west of commercial broadcasting options, and not all for the better. Not unless you’re an ad agency or a retailer looking to brainwash consumers. Convenient, yes, but at a high price to one’s purse from the pressure to buy, psyche, and the environment.

We–Hubby and I–don’t need much more ourselves than what Gram had. With just our converter box and antenna, we get PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, WGN, and a slew of indie outlets and substations. There are two classic movie channels we enjoy. One of the substations runs “Star Trek” six nights a week. We invest in DVDs of our favorite programs. We both have channels we like on YouTube. Sometimes when nothing appeals to me, I do this really crazy thing called READING A BOOK.

In this post-PICAN and Fairness Doctrine world, making deliberate, conscious choices takes on new importance. Do your research on broadcasting options in your area, and choose wisely.

I know I’ve posted this before, but I feel like it’s time to revisit John Denver’s cover of “Spanish Pipedream (Blow Up Your TV)” again.  Somehow, it just seems to fit.