To have a working democracy it is critical that the media provide voters with information that is accurate, unbiased, and comprehensive. That is what enables “we the people” to make good choices when we vote.
Our current media is not meeting this fundamental need.
- The country’s most watched cable channel, Fox News, has regularly promoted falsehoods about election results, Mr. Obama’s birthplace and other subjects.
- Political reporting highlights the unusual, the violent – materials that increase our polarization. Rather than highlighting the good, it threatens us with the bad. It does this to attract more viewers and higher advertising revenue.
- Local newspapers that have long provided us with information about local candidates, elections and malfeasance/corruption have been disappearing at a rapid clip.
For more information about these issues go to Media’s Impact on Democracy.
Addressing these significant issues is very challenging. Our fundamental right of free speech encourages a variety of opinions which is good for democracy. However, when we are brainwashed with negative political ads, untruths and half truths, this clearly is bad for democracy. We become polarized and unable to listen to each other. We don’t receive the information we need to make good voting decisions and decide to simply vote along party lines.
Here are some potential actions that could be taken to make improvements.
- Reinstate the FCC fairness doctrine that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that fairly reflected differing viewpoints. Structured debates could be encouraged.
- Eliminate paid political advertising on broadcast media. Instead, require that candidates for election be given time to speak directly to their voters..This would also help reduce the problem of big money in politics.
- Provide grants and other public support for local newspapers and local news sites on the internet.