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January 16, 2007

Comments

Well, it's possible he's got a reason for wanting to ban space weapons.

Probably not that, though.

I'm curious. If there was only enough bandwidth for one tv or radio station, would the conservatives here still oppose a fairness doctrine? Or would they offer the channel up to the highest bidder?

I think there would be more important issues, such as do you boot 24 to make room for BSG?

Ah, so you would be in favor of a federal bureau of television aesthetics. The totalitarian mindset of the conservative once again reveals itself! Advantage, Gedanken.

No, I'm just saying that your hypothetical involves fairly radical changes in the laws of physics, and so doesn't really apply to this universe.

I mean, imagine: you've got precisely one channel. I'm assuming that this is going to be a radio channel, because television is really RF as well, and so a given TV block of bandwidth can be subdivided into quite a few radio channels, which walks outside of the hypothetical.

But ignoring connections with reality, what would happen is that people would be using land-lines instead. And assuming only one channel per land-line, you'd have to have a number of parallel lines. I'm guessing the result would be something like the Internet, where one can choose one's own content.

what would happen is that people would be using land-lines instead

Make that "what could happen". There are other alternatives, including newspapers, street-corner criers, etc. Regardless, your gedankenexperiment considers a world very different from our own. Which is fine, but it doesn't allow you to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions about this world.

Crap.

I’m not sure I actually have a dog in this fight because:

I do not listen to talk radio – at all.
For the most part, the only TV news I watch is local.
The only dead-tree newspapers I regularly read are the local free weeklies.
I get all my national news, international news, and opinion on the web. Admittedly that is primarily online versions of national papers or transcripts/videos of national news shows.

My knee-jerk reaction though is to be strongly against it, based on a free market philosophy. If AA can not make it in the free market even with all it’s funding, then let’s just admit that there is little demand for it. Forcing a broadcaster to air one hour of AA for every hour of Limbaugh would simply be detrimental to the broadcaster and force them to switch formats. The overall effect would be a general overall decrease in opinion radio.

Take the concept to the extreme and it even affects what music a station plays. Assume that there is only one radio station available to a wide and diverse audience. If that station plays an hour of rock, it has to be followed by an hour of C&W, followed by an hour of hip-hop (now rap I guess). If Rush is on, then Al Franken is on. If there is talk radio, then there has to be sports. Someone wants a financial show, others want Car Talk. That station exists – it is called the Armed Forces Network. While it might be better than nothing, it is also a great incentive to broaden your horizons and start listening to foreign language stations.

I would certainly agree that it doesn't apply to this world, although, if you want to argue the hypothetical, it wouldn't actually require any changes to the laws of physics: if there were considerably more background EMF noise, one radio channel could conceivably take up all the available spectrum.
In any case, I was just curious how a conservative would deal with a situation that would seem to more straightforwardly call for government intervention. Apparently, the answer is to resist the possibility that such a situation could arise in any possible world ;)

Gary Farber: I'm afraid I'm not following. You asserted that "it is still a lot easier to access information on the airwaves than on the internet," because "[a] radio costs only a few dollars these days, compared with hundreds or thousands for a computer and internet access."

But a computer to get get you on the internet, without frills, can be easily had for $5. The relevance of the fact that more expensive computers cost more, or anything about cars, escapes me, I'm afraid.

And these $5 computers are available in sufficient quantities to rival the accessibility of cheap radios?

Also, I'm curious what ISP's offer free internet access without also imposing severe restrictions on usage (NetZero and Juno limit you to ten hours a month, for example, and some services levy steep charges once usage exceeds the cap). There are no such restrictions on free broadcast signals, of course.

Oops, sorry about the italics.

Oh, wait, maybe it wasn't me, after all.

if there were considerably more background EMF noise, one radio channel could conceivably take up all the available spectrum

Hmmm...ok, well, assuming a fictitious noise source of unspecified origin, radiating noise with a staggering expenditure of energy over nearly the entire RF spectrum, I admit that'd be a problem. I'm guessing, though, that communications would merely go directional and/or shielded. Ambient noise won't affect cable broadcast.

I don't have a pet solution, though, to your hypothetical. I'm guessing that sharing time as regards opinion programming would be the least of our worries.

Andrew, why is it okay with you for major corporations to control what people read/see/hear, but not okay for the government to force corporations to let all American political opinions be broadcast - which appears to be the principle of the Fairness Doctrine?

Because you can form another corporation, but you can't form another government.

There's a RilkeFan spectrum?

"Andrew, why is it okay with you for major corporations to control what people read/see/hear..."

I don't agree that they do control what people read/see/hear in any strong sense of being able to censor an idea such that it can't get out to the public.

Charles: There are no barriers of entry for liberal viewpoints on talk radio.

I think what you mean is that there are no additional barriers to the entry of well funded liberal (Soros, Huffington, er... any others?) viewpoints when compared to equally well funded conservative (Moon, Murdoch, Scaife, Coors, Mays, Ahmanson, Olin, etc etc) viewpoints? I suspect that even this hasn't actually been the case in recent years, but I have no interest in trying to measure it. In any event, yes, the law in its infinite majesty forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges.

Gromit's point seems not to have gotten traction, so I would like to reintroduce it:

Gromit: The "Fairness Doctrine" doesn't apply to circumstances under which the government isn't already determining to some extent who gets to speak. Assuming the licensing of spectrum is a good thing (and I'll stipulate that it is) then I think it is critical that there be safeguards against government abuse of the power to grant or withhold those licenses.

I personally disagree that reintroducing the Fairness Doctrine would be useful -- Gary's freshness metaphor was perfect IMO. But there is a problem, whether Andrew likes to admit it or not, and the problem is that a necessary premise of the libertarian/freemarketer argument:

Steve: Because you can form another corporation, but you can't form another government.

Is not in fact true. This is an instinctive reaction with very little basis in reality, and in fact it's almost exactly backwards. It is not currently possible to form another General Electric or Disney. GE and Disney are too big. Too powerful. Too influential over the various governments which regulate them.

OTOH, you can in fact, at least in most of the US, "form another government." True, you can't change the basic structure, but you can replace the participants. It's not easy by any means, but it's a hell of a lot easier, in the current environment, than founding a multibillion dollar corporation.

And interestingly enough, the main reason that it's as difficult as it is has to do with the fact that broadcast time is so expensive. And why is that so? This question is left as an exercise for the reader...

Sebastian Holsclaw: I don't agree that they do control what people read/see/hear in any strong sense of being able to censor an idea such that it can't get out to the public.

Neither did the Fairness Doctrine control what people read/saw/heard in that sense. However, if we limit ourselves to the sense in which Andrew was originally describing government control of content, it is entirely appropriate to observe that businesses do exert a great deal of control.

That said, I don't quite agree with Jesurgislac's formulation, because the Fairness Doctrine didn't represent an attempt, out of the blue, by government to exert control where it had none before. It was a term of a government-granted license. If we were to allow a business to build its facilities or to harvest resources on public land for cheap, would it be unreasonable to impose certain restrictions or to demand certain improvements for the public benefit?

While it's not the stated goal of the Democrats to eliminate conservative talk radio, the fact is that the Fairness Doctrine guaranteed that such programs did not exist because there's no audience for the other side, and so stations would stick to programming that didn't cost them money.

Is there really no audience? or just fewer obvious sponsors?

Where I live most of the advertising on local radio and in local papers is from small businesses, Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club types, as well as local churches who buy air time on Sundays. These organizations have fanatically supported the Republican party in recent years.

I'm in their audience and would much prefer to hear music, traffic and weather while driving. Instead I get traffic, weather and Neal Boortz during my morning drive time. The station that carries him has the best signal as well as the best traffic and weather reports. Since I can't stand Neal Boortz's voice and most of his opinions - especially so early in the morning - I just turn the radio off and pop in a CD until time for their news report.

I know many other people who do the same. Doesn't make any difference. Neal's good buddies with lots of his sponsors. They like him and are willing to pay to hear him so the rest of us just suffer.

I keep hoping outrage fatigue will put him and Rush out of business but there must be a more rage out there than I ever imagined. Not a good thing.

would it be unreasonable to impose certain restrictions or to demand certain improvements for the public benefit?

Personally, I think that all available air time should be devoted to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers. That's my idea of Fairness.

Sebastian: "I think certain mental states are harder to adequately prove compared to other mental states. The mental state reached for by hate crimes legislation is of the slippery type that I'm not thrilled about subjecting to prosecutorial discretion."

So you're saying that you don't trust juries and/or judges to fairly reach verdicts if they have to judge one type of mental state, but you do trust them to fairly judge all other mental states? This seems, unpacked, rather arbitrary.

Why is it significantly harder to judge one mental state (it was murder in the heat of passion, or murder motivated by profit, for instance) from evidence, and not the other (it was murder due to racial hatred)?

Slart: "(II) through the use of land-based, sea-based, or space-based systems using radiation, electromagnetic, psychotronic, sonic, laser, or other energies directed at individual persons or targeted populations for the purpose of information war, mood management, or mind control of such persons or populations...."

I think the danger of bad movies broadcast from space can't be underestimated!

I might be able to benefit from low-orbit mood management, though, if it's done well.

Dantheman: "I am willing to bet far fewer people give their friends Dennis Kucinich as Christmas presents."

He does seem to stay pretty much the same, and of the same consistency, year to year, though.

OCSteve: "For the most part, the only TV news I watch is local."

The worst, most irresponsible, contempible, unreliable, and useless, sort.

Gromit: "And these $5 computers are available in sufficient quantities to rival the accessibility of cheap radios?"

There's never a week I've been unable to find one at a garage sale, let alone available online (Craigslist, classified ads, etc.). I have a couple right here; would you like one? (You pay shipping.) (I only upgraded from my three P1s in 2006; one of which I got for $5, and two for free, and the first two free ones I got back in the 90's.)

So, so far as most Americans are concerned: yes.

Alternatively, I suggest the experiment of offering a P1 for sale, and finding out how much you can get for it. If you can get someone to pay over $20, I'll be impressed. Tens of thousands of working old computers are just thrown out every year; probably far more.

Here's Denver Craigslist at the moment -- we can get:

Mac Apple PowerPC desktop computer - $25

Computer - $25 (Lakewood)

HP ALL in 1 - $30 (Denver)

Apple Powermacintosh 7100/80-Old School Mac - $20

laptop - $25

Sun Microsystem SparcStation Computer - $30

AMD ATHLON XP 2600 Great Deal - $25

eTower 566i computer - $1

IBM T30 laptop for parts - $1

F/S 2 ea PII Compaq Proliant 1850R servers - $20ea

PII 350 Workstation Computer Tower PC w/ Windows 98 .. WORKS! - $25

IMAC for sale OS 9 - $20

Web TV Plus Receiver - $15

Dell V433C PC's for sale - $25

And on and on; that's just the first few pages. Plus all the drives, boards, cards, monitors, printers, RAM, etc., you'd want, for similar prices; lots of stuff for $1.

"Also, I'm curious what ISP's offer free internet access without also imposing severe restrictions on usage"

At the moment, one could try Great Dialup or Coppernet's 3 months for $1, or EasyCall's $6.95/month, for starters; I've not looked exhaustively. I've spent as much as a year and a half at a time in the past getting online just through alternating "first month free!" offers, which tend to work out in practice, if you're canny, to 3-7 months before they'll finally shut you off, rather than further extending your time. I'm online this month only via AOL's free months. No restrictions save the 56k speed. Altogether I've had many years of free online access, under such limitations and irritating work-arounds.

Oh, and that's the same many years I've worked only with computers I've gotten for free, or for $5. Since you asked.

Alternatively, I suggest the experiment of offering a P1 for sale, and finding out how much you can get for it.

I just threw a 166MHz P1 and a 450 MHz PII just last week. Probably I should have auctioned them off for a few bucks, but frankly it cost more of my time and energy to clean up the hard drives than to just yank and dump.

I did give the monitors to a reseller, with the verbal agreement that I'd get some unspecified discount on a graphics card later.

"I don't agree that they do control what people read/see/hear in any strong sense of being able to censor an idea such that it can't get out to the public."

That's not a bar of particular interest; the questions of interest would be whether a single corporation or two in a given area heavily dominates the news broadcasts and/or major newspapers in a given area, and whether a significant political POV isn't represented by major broadcasters and/or major newspapers, in a given area.

How many actual leftist (not, you know, Ted Kennedy, not liberals, but actual socialists or communists, or folks at least to the left of Teddy) newspaper columnists, newspaper columnists and tv political commentators, do most media markets have? How many socialists show up on national political programs? How many anti-war activists were on tv anywhere in the U.S, besides cable free access, in 2003?

There's plenty of room for concern about information media that dominate an area that's nonetheless under the level of totalitarian control.

Setting the bar of concern only at "being able to censor an idea such that it can't get out to the public" is, well, not how I'd define a free society, myself. Heck, even in a company town, or a Stalinistic society, there's samizdata and gossip: nothing to worry about, therefore, because ideas can still get out!

One of the most eloquent advocates for a reinstated Fairness Doctrine is Orcinus (David Neiwert), most succinctly in his Media Revolt Manifesto. His argument is basically that much of the country, especially almost all the areas of low population density, only has easy access to one set of opinions, which are so much partisan Republican but corporatist.

Yes, in most areas it is possible to get other opinions & information, e.g. from the 'net -- but that takes time (=money) and education (also=money).

The way I think of it is, a Fairness Doctrine is the absolute least I can think of that the controlled-access media could do to earn First Amendment protections and their use of the public airwaves. If Andrew or the libertarians can think of anything that would work better at the task of making it easy and cheap for all citizens to get access to a range of information and opinions, I'm all ears. Well, eyes.

Via Captain's Quarters, I see that Representative Dennis Kucinich, in between Presidential runs, has decided to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine.

I totally support the Fairness Doctrine, for all of the usual lefty reasons.

My memory may be faulty, but I don't recall any lack of opinion on the air back in the bad old days. There's nothing we have now that we didn't have then in the way of "public discourse" that I would miss.

Plus, I miss the days when you could see some earnest, nervous oddball with a bad suit and a worse haircut go on for five or ten minutes on topics like leash laws, the decline of public morality, or fluoride in the water.

It was, frankly, good old fashioned fun. It also reinforced the idea that any ordinary person could have their say. The only place you get that now is on the letters to the editors page of small newspapers, or in the occasional town that still has open town meetings.

Geez, what an old crank I'm turning into.

At any rate, my guess is that Andrew has nothing to fear from Kucinich's proposal. There's way too much money in the game now for the likes of a well meaning guy like Kucinich to be able to make a dent.

Thanks -

Gary,

"Dantheman: "I am willing to bet far fewer people give their friends Dennis Kucinich as Christmas presents."

He does seem to stay pretty much the same, and of the same consistency, year to year, though."

So do most fruitcakes I've encountered.

Slartibartfast: Personally, I think that all available air time should be devoted to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers. That's my idea of Fairness.

Try listening to one of Sirius's NPR stations on any given Saturday.

Gromit: And these $5 computers are available in sufficient quantities to rival the accessibility of cheap radios?

Gary Farber: There's never a week I've been unable to find one at a garage sale, let alone available online (Craigslist, classified ads, etc.). I have a couple right here; would you like one? (You pay shipping.) (I only upgraded from my three P1s in 2006; one of which I got for $5, and two for free, and the first two free ones I got back in the 90's.)

So, so far as most Americans are concerned: yes.

Wait, you are saying, with a straight face, that if most Americans -- and here I'll limit it to just those Americans who are currently without computers/internet access but who do have radios-- that if all these millions of people trawled Craig's list and yard sales, we'd solve the problem of the digital divide in the U.S.? I'm no economist, but I don't think markets scale in that way. You can find these things for cheap because there are very real costs associated with not only finding them, but with getting them into an operational state (not to mention very real risks in buying unsupported equipment).

Alternatively, I suggest the experiment of offering a P1 for sale, and finding out how much you can get for it. If you can get someone to pay over $20, I'll be impressed. Tens of thousands of working old computers are just thrown out every year; probably far more.

And while getting those tens of thousands of computers to folks who could use them is a worthy goal, is this number (or even "far more") meant to close the gap with radio? You're implying here that your experience at yard sales is a prescription for a mass market for dirt cheap, internet-capable computers. That just sounds nuts to me, even before we start talking about cost of ownership for 15-year-old computer equipment and software.

At the moment, one could try Great Dialup or Coppernet's 3 months for $1, or EasyCall's $6.95/month, for starters; I've not looked exhaustively. I've spent as much as a year and a half at a time in the past getting online just through alternating "first month free!" offers, which tend to work out in practice, if you're canny, to 3-7 months before they'll finally shut you off, rather than further extending your time. I'm online this month only via AOL's free months. No restrictions save the 56k speed. Altogether I've had many years of free online access, under such limitations and irritating work-arounds.

Similarly, this is something that works for a few enterprising individuals, but which would never work for a large swath of the population, because the ISP's would kill the promotions.

I think that was Gary's point, or at least that's how I took it.

Slarti,

If your 1:18 was in response to mine, I disagree, based on Gary's inclusion of the word "though", which suggests he feels that is a difference between Kucinich and the baked sort of fruitcake.

which suggests he feels that is a difference between Kucinich and the baked sort of fruitcake

As opposed to the half-baked sort?

Seriously, I don't have any problem with Kucinich; to my way of looking at it, we could stand to hear from him a whole lot more.

"So do most fruitcakes I've encountered."

It's almost as if that were my point.

"The way I think of it is, a Fairness Doctrine is the absolute least I can think of that the controlled-access media could do to earn First Amendment protections and their use of the public airwaves. If Andrew or the libertarians can think of anything that would work better at the task of making it easy and cheap for all citizens to get access to a range of information and opinions, I'm all ears."

What bothers me here, and about this argument, is the way terms are switched in the middle. You start off with a not-unreasonable premise of discussing "controlled-access media," such as broadcasts over the air-waves of sufficient power to reach a mass-market audience -- and then switch to the premise of "the task of making it easy and cheap for all citizens to get access to a range of information and opinions," which is an entirely different question.

It is, in fact, relatively easy and cheap for almost all citizens to get access to a range of information and opinions, via libraries and the internet, if they want it. That's not particularly relevant to the first question, about controlled access mass-market media, and thus says little about the question.

3/4ths of Americans had internet access as of 2004.

NEW YORK — March 18, 2004 — Nielsen//NetRatings, the global standard for Internet audience measurement and analysis, reports that nearly 75 percent or 204.3 million Americans have access to the Internet from home (see Table 1). In comparison, Internet access penetration hovered around 66 percent in February 2003, rising nine percentage points year-over-year.
It's gone up a lot since 2004, of course. More info. A chart.

Data from 2004 on where people get their news from. More recently, in 2006. Note that already more people get their news online than from network tv news. (31% check news online 3 times a week or more; 28% regularly watch evening network news and 23% morning network news, in 2006; people who "read a newspaper yesterday" [print only] were 34%, by the way; though local tv news is still the dominant news source, at 54%, and cable news at 34%, and radio at 36%.)

"If your 1:18 was in response to mine, I disagree, based on Gary's inclusion of the word 'though', which suggests he feels that is a difference between Kucinich and the baked sort of fruitcake."

"Though" was to indicate a point that noted Kucinich's similiarities with a fruitcake, in response to a statement that noted a difference: "I am willing to bet far fewer people give their friends Dennis Kucinich as Christmas presents."

Thus, a difference between DK and fruitcakes; I rebutted with a similarity. Gosh, this is ever so much more entertaining when explained.

Gromit, I'm not going to continue further: you claimed it cost thousands of dollars to get online; that's nonsense, and I've demonstrated it, as well as lived it; it costs a handful of dollars and a trivial effort. I'm done, and I'm uninterested in arguments about other goalposts you've moved to.

Gary,

Since the original was in response to a statement which read, "Fruitcakes got nuthin' on Dennis Kucinich.", saying they have points of similarity seems redundant at best. Saying they had some other reason than what I alluded to as grounds to prefer them would not be. Therefore, I assumed you were not being redundant, which appears to be a mistake for which I apologize.

Gromit, I'm not going to continue further: you claimed it cost thousands of dollars to get online; that's nonsense, and I've demonstrated it, as well as lived it; it costs a handful of dollars and a trivial effort. I'm done, and I'm uninterested in arguments about other goalposts you've moved to.

That's BS, Gary. We were talking about the devlopment of mass media markets through individual purchases, and I have no doubt that you were aware of this. That you would try to turn it into a discussion about what a few resourceful individuals can do to take advantage of the side effects of existing large-scale markets and then accuse me of moving goalposts is pretty audacious. As for the substance of your argument, you might as well be insisting that no one need pay for peanuts since bars give them away for free.

Gary:

You're right, in that I've assumed that limited-access broadcast media are (at present) the only ones that can reach *all* people, instead of just "most".

One of the points Orcinus makes is that broadcast media are disproportionately important in the less densely-populated parts of the country. Access to the internet is easy for me in NJ, where no-one lives very far from a public library. In most plains & mountain states, though, getting to a library would be a major trip, taking time and money. Out there it is far easier (and cheaper) to get "news" on the radio, especially if you have to spend a lot of time in the car anyway because it takes so long to get anywhere.

This is important not least because the setup of Congress gives disproportionate power to less-populous states -- which are precisely the ones where the time cost of good information is highest.

"So you're saying that you don't trust juries and/or judges to fairly reach verdicts if they have to judge one type of mental state, but you do trust them to fairly judge all other mental states? This seems, unpacked, rather arbitrary.

Why is it significantly harder to judge one mental state (it was murder in the heat of passion, or murder motivated by profit, for instance) from evidence, and not the other (it was murder due to racial hatred)?"

Because certain mental states are clearer than others. In order to prove murder for pecuniary gain you typically have strong direct evidence--payments or that the murder took place during the commission of an illegal act which had money gain as a primary component. That is fairly clear cut.

The different racial animus theories? Not so much.

I'm not particularly worried about a comparison to "in the heat of passion" because that is a partial defense, and therefore not so easily subject to prosecutorial misconduct as hate crimes legislation.

Furthermore I'm uncomfortable with status crimes and crimes which turn on how you see the accused as a person rather than dealing with what they actually did.

As for the Fairness Doctrine, people today have no excuse not to go after informatin that interests them. The problem seems to be that the information you all want to get out isn't being received or sought after. I'm not paternalistic enough to try to force people to receive such information. Even ridiculously poor people (for the United States) have access to non-big-media outlets. We are simply not in the era of only three television stations any more. There is no reason for the government to tamper.

"Pecuniary gain" is a mental state? Since when?

Gary: OCSteve: "For the most part, the only TV news I watch is local."

The worst, most irresponsible, contempible, unreliable, and useless, sort.

Just what I’m looking for. As I said, I get my national/international news online. When I want news about my local community, what’s the mayor and city council up to now, who got arrested this week, other local gossip – there is only one place. Local TV news, local free weekly.

Sebastian:

Even ridiculously poor people (for the United States) have access to non-big-media outlets.

And I'm saying this statement is AFAIK factually incorrect, at least if by "have access" you mean "don't have to pay a high price in time as well as money for".

Orcinus' point is that the division is less a strict poverty vs. wealth one than rural vs. urban-suburban, where the rural & western population has much higher information costs (in time as well as money) and is much more vulnerable to monopolies.

"And I'm saying this statement is AFAIK factually incorrect, at least if by 'have access' you mean 'don't have to pay a high price in time as well as money for'."

I live in a mountain state (Colorado.) And internet access out in the boonies is as far away as one's telephone, which few lack for (I've yet to have other than dialup, though I certainly admit that's rather frustrating these days -- but it hardly prevents me from from having access, and neither is there a significant "high price in time" in getting access to dialup).

I'm not in total disagreement with what you're saying; I certainly agree that there is a large percentage of the population that is passive about how they receive their information -- but that's part of the point: it's not so much a problem that people have great trouble getting accurate news and information, as that an awful lot of people aren't particularly interested.

"Pecuniary gain" is a mental state? Since when?

If you phrase it as "greed" I think it makes more sense.

"Because certain mental states are clearer than others. In order to prove murder for pecuniary gain you typically have strong direct evidence--payments or that the murder took place during the commission of an illegal act which had money gain as a primary component. That is fairly clear cut.

The different racial animus theories? Not so much."

It sometimes pretty freaking clear cut. When it's not, they shouldn't be applied. There's no reason you can't assign the same standard of proof to both. If it's met less often in hate crimes cases, so be it.

Is it possible for prosecutors to misuse them? Sure, in the sense that our entire criminal system is shot through with the opportunity for prosecutors do that. I don't see what's special about hate crimes laws--they're a lot more defensible than things like the felony murder rule combined w/ strict accomplice liability--and I don't see how this makes them an abridgment on free speech.

(and if I was the one who said "mental state" that was careless--I meant motive. "Mental state" sounds more like mens rea to me, and I understand that it's a distinct issue.)

"It sometimes pretty freaking clear cut. When it's not, they shouldn't be applied. There's no reason you can't assign the same standard of proof to both. If it's met less often in hate crimes cases, so be it."

Either there's a sound reason to mistrust juries on one, but not the other, or there isn't.

it's not so much a problem that people have great trouble getting accurate news and information, as that an awful lot of people aren't particularly interested.

And that it takes time (=money) and education (=another form of money) to be active about one's news-gathering.

Basically, how much time/money/energy is reasonable for the average citizen to invest in politics? And how much is the least she can get away with and be informed enough to make sane decisions? If she has to put in a thoughtful hour a day, it's too much.

So what do you propose as a solution? Even some mythical perfect fairness doctrine will require citizens to spend time watching programs that educate them on the issue.

And that it takes time (=money) and education (=another form of money) to be active about one's news-gathering.
How would a renewal of the Fairness Doctrine give more people time in their lives to pursue an interest in the news that they can't currently fulfill? How would it improve our access to education, asks this guy with three months of college?

"If she has to put in a thoughtful hour a day, it's too much."

How would a renewed Fairness Doctrine cure this?

The point of the Fairness Doctrine (or one point) was to make it easier -- even mandatory -- to get alternative points of view. The idea is that even if you're on a 24/7 diet of talk radio, you would hear varying points of view. It's to make the airwaves less monotonic -- even if people find a monotone soothing and convenient.

But if one hour a day is too much, I fail to see how the fairness doctrine is going to help.

Also, I find it difficult to believe many, if any, listeners to talk radio are listening to learn anything. [Gross generalization] People listen to Limbaugh/Air America to hear their beliefs validated, not to educate themselves.

To put it mildly, as someone long familiar with the liberal tradition, I missed when that tradition adopted the notion that we should have mandatory instruction on Truth issued to the masses, by law.

This is, to be sure, a stretch of what's being advocated by those who want the government to again listen to, and mandate changes in, what goes over the public ariwaves, but it's not as far off as I'd personally prefer.

The current situation is flawed, but the suggested cure has many worse possibilities incumbent.

I find it difficult to believe many, if any, listeners to talk radio are listening to learn anything.

Oh, I think they are -- in much the same way watchers of The Daily Show are doing it to learn. We're human beings, we can't help wanting to learn things -- but we prefer to learn in managable bites from someone we trust.

As I said, I'm a bit on the fence here, so I'd have to ask Gary if the liberal tradition accepts certain mandatory instruction in matters pertaining to elections, which seems to be where this rubber hits this road. We have countries that require voting, we have states that mandate information packets on voter initiatives, and this seems to be in a liberal tradition. The liberal tradition seems to demand that valid alternative views get a viewing, but the problem is determining what a valid viewpoint is. But it is not letting the marketplace decide which messages get out or not.

Also, there is a secondary notion which is that the dispersal of mistaken information can actually harm people. While we have libel and slander laws, they only operate after the harm has been committed. A Fairness Doctrine acts before the act occurs. I agree that it is fraught with difficulties, but being on the fence, I think there is some middle here that is being excluded.

"We're human beings, we can't help wanting to learn things -- but we prefer to learn in managable bites from someone we trust."

And our tendency is to prefer to learn within our prejudices. Which is to say, our preference tends to be to learn only within major limits. Most liberals don't tend to learn from what President Bush says; most conservatives don't tend to learn from what Ted Kennedy says. Etc.

"...so I'd have to ask Gary if the liberal tradition accepts certain mandatory instruction in matters pertaining to elections...."

Off the top of my head, I have no idea. (Never call me dishonest about my opinions, please!....)

Gary Farber: To put it mildly, as someone long familiar with the liberal tradition, I missed when that tradition adopted the notion that we should have mandatory instruction on Truth issued to the masses, by law.

This is a distortion of what Doctor Science wrote. How can a doctrine that requires the presentation of alternate viewpoints constitute "mandatory instruction on Truth"?

The current situation is flawed, but the suggested cure has many worse possibilities incumbent.

Such as?

Never call me dishonest about my opinions, please!....

There's a semantics joke there that I'm not going to touch.

But seriously, there has to be some sort of fairness doctrine, even if it is not the "Fairness" Doctrine. I'm only going to note that it would be better if we all agreed we needed some fairness, so we should think how to go about getting it. We could argue that the market, if it is unregulated creates fairness and have at it on that. We could suggest that public opinion should operate like the free market and disincentivize unfair opinions but doesn't so what should we do to make public opinion a more robust enforcer of fairness (if you asked me, I'd say work towards beefing up education, but there's a large amount of self interest in that). But I hope that a point of agreement would be that we either have or need some sort of fairness in the transmission of information.

Steve: Because you can form another corporation, but you can't form another government.

Actually, in a democratic country, you can form another government any time you care to vote for one: and even in the US, in theory, every two to four years. But, forming another corporation is a restricted game. (And, as others have already noted, forming a new talk radio station is restricted by the laws of physics.) This is the argument that money buys airtime and that as anyone can have money, airtime should be unregulated so that anyone can buy it...

Sebastian Holsclaw: I don't agree that they do control what people read/see/hear in any strong sense of being able to censor an idea such that it can't get out to the public.

But they can and do control what people read/see/hear in the strong sense of being able to censor a piece of information so that it's massively unlikely to get out to the public. For example: in October 2001, it was reported in non-American media that, once all the votes had been counted, Al Gore had won the November 2000 election. But no US media reported this fact, and the majority of Americans are still either unaware of it or disregard it. For example: the proportion of Americans who believed (70%?) that Saddam Hussein had something to do with September 11, because the US media was uncritically reporting Republican speeches that strongly implied that, while failing to report that there was less than no evidence for such Republican claims.

True, in either case, anyone who wanted to could go look outside the US media and find media (such as the BBC) required by the UK government to follow a British form of the Fairness Doctrine, and therefore presenting better and less politically slanted information. But fairly obviously, the corporate censorship of information available to Americans works extremely effectively in most cases.

lj,

The problem is that there is no objective definition for fairness. Billy Hollis over at QandO pointed out some of the problems inherent in trying to enforce a nebulous concept like fairness.

Andrew- If I didn't know that Democrats are way more fair than Republicans deserve I might worry about that.

Gary- Your arguement about how cheap it is to get online didn't include the major cost of getting online. Most poor people these days don't have land lines and so all that stuff about cheap internet is bs. Of course I'm relatively poor and I get online but I have cable internet as my major indulgence. At $30 a month its cheaper than any landline service I could get that didn't charge me by the minute.

And I'm sure Republicans believe the same about Democrats, Frank. Hell, for that matter, I'll bet I can find Republicans and Democrats who believe in Santa Claus. It still doesn't make it so.

There are no objective definitions for a lot of things, yet we muddle on and use them as best as we can. I don't want to make this comment too sharp, as I appreciate the point you are making, but it seems that many words (like conservative for instance) get unmoored for their meanings and we are all poorer for it. And I'm not sure that we can afford it.

OK, then help me see. What would your fairness doctrine say, and how would it help political discourse in this country? And most importantly, what would keep it from being abused by those charged with enforcing it?

Let's see if I can set up some broad points.

-There needs to be some recognized mechanism to present information to the public that is recognized non-partisan. I felt like there were (though the acronyms escape me), but many of them were undermined by political forces. These were set up in a sort of double-blind way where the appointments were shielded from partisan pressures. They may not totally shield them, but I don't think the perfect should be the enemy of the good.

-somehow, a fairness doctrine needs to be tied into campaign finance reform. Other countries seem to do fine with far stricter limits on campaign finances, so I'm not so sympathetic to the argument that this is going to completely sink democracy as we know it.

-as I noted to Charles, the two corollaries of the Fairness act (the personal attack and the political editorial) seem to be something that people could agree on (and they were supported, even after the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned by the Reagan admin)

If a new FD is a possibility, it seems that basing it on a principle not of shutting down opinions, but making sure that alternative opinions have some opportunity (I'm particularly enamored of the idea of permitting independent low-power stations) would avoid some of the most obvious abuses because it wouldn't be shutting down, it would be presenting alternatives. Could it still be managed to be abused? Sure, but I don't think the status quo is something that is abuse free.

However, as I first noted, I am unconvinced that a new Fairness Doctrine is actually in the cards, so an intense argument about what the FD should be is a lot more heat than light, I think.

"Either there's a sound reason to mistrust juries on one, but not the other, or there isn't."

Sure. In my opinion questions of greed are easier for juries to judge objectively than questions of racism.

Additionally, the question of 'hate' being an enhancement makes little sense. Someone screwed up enough/evil enough to go seek people to beat the crap out of should be punished very harshly whether or not they are stupid enough to additionally call the person a NI***R or a F*G**T. If we need 'hate crimes' legislation to pop up the punsishment for such people, I would strongly suggest that we are underpunishing people who go out and randomly beat people up or kill them for reasons that we can't prove.

Using pecuniary gain (greed) enhancements is a matter of managing incentives. We try to partially counterbalance the incentive of money by providing a negative incentive of punshing you more if you intentionally hurt someone in order to gain money.

And don't think I'm just against 'hate crimes' inquiries into mental states. I don't like lots of them. I think "intent to distribute" is deeply abused in our system. For certain huge amounts of drugs, I suppose it makes sense, but in actual practice a largish stash just proves you don't want to make repeated buys.

"Sure. In my opinion questions of greed are easier for juries to judge objectively than questions of racism."

I do worry about jury and race, but not, primarily, in this direction. If we've got juries and prosecutors who can't think straight against race hate crimes are the least of it.

I would wager that far more people who shouldn't have been were sentenced to death because of the "pecuniary gain" thing--which I believe can be used to try for a death sentence for a non-trigger-man in a felony murder rule case--than have been unfairly victimized by hate crimes laws. Probably a racial element in some of those sentences, too.

Do you think McClesky v. Kemp was wrongly decided?

Your approach to racial problems bewilders me. You seem to worry much much more about the racial effects of anti-racism policies than about the original racism, which is somehow thought to be A Fact of Life that must just be accepted.

If we need 'hate crimes' legislation to pop up the punsishment for such people, I would strongly suggest that we are underpunishing people who go out and randomly beat people up or kill them for reasons that we can't prove.

This misstates what I understand to be the reasoning behind hate crimes legislation -- it's not that people who commit hate crimes are worse people who should be punished more harshly than criminals without a racial/sexuality/whatever motive, it's that the crime is more harmful, and therefore should be deterred more stringently. When someone gets beaten up, they're injured and everyone who hears about it is slightly concerned about their safety on the streets. When someone is beaten up by skinheads calling them a dirty Jew, then Jews are severely concerned about their safety, and are being driven out of normal participation in society (oh, not by one incident, but if that sort of thing happened a lot).

It's not that the perpetrator of the nonhate crime is a better person, and so doesn't deserve as much punishment, it's that they're doing less harm and so need be deterred less severely.

Aren't there already varying degrees of assault and battery?

My view on hate crimes legislation wasn't particularly formed on the racial applications. I thought about it most deeply with respect to hate crimes and anti-gay beatings--one of which I very narrowly escaped myself.

I don't believe it makes lots of sense to try to distinguish people who were going to roam around and try to beat me up for being gay, from those who were going to roam around and try to beat me up just for fun, from those who would roam around and try to beat me up for reasons which are unknown or can't be proven in court.

I don't know that I would call that a "free speech issue", I'm not really sure how we got on this tangent in retrospect. :)

Sebastian: I would strongly suggest that we are underpunishing people who go out and randomly beat people up or kill them for reasons that we can't prove.

I don't know. I think there's something peculiarly evil about someone who goes out with the intention of killing or beating up someone because they're of an "inferior" race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. It's why - for most people - the Nazis fill us with more horror than your average tyrant with concentration camps: because you could end up in a concentration camp even if you were doing your best to be a "good German", for being Jewish, or gay, or a Romany, or physically/mentally disabled in a way science at the time thought to be heritable: for nothing that you could change about yourself.

Similiarly, though of course on a far lesser level, someone who goes out for the night, gets drunk, and picks a fight with someone else who's equally combatative, doesn't fill me with the same horror as someone who decides that it'll be fun to go kill a n*gg*r, or go queerbashing, or find a woman to rape, or beat up some "ragheads".

In a country with no past history of violent racism, or violence against women for being female, or violent homophobia, or violence against people because they "looked Muslim", it would be reasonable for someone to be skeptical about whether there was actually any evidence that there was such a thing as hate crime. Needless to say, the US is not such a country (and nor is mine).

PIMF. LizardBreath said it better.

"A 'smart' fairness doctrine would still be implemented by politicians. I am not at all comfortable with bureaucrats deciding what fairness is and how it is to be implemented."

I do sympathize, as politicians do get things wrong, mostly. The nub of the issue, is whether there is a significant issue that would be helped by some regulation, in this case. And would the proposed regulation make the problem worse, as you suggest?

So are the problems pre-Fairness Doctrine bigger or less than the problems since?

I would say worse. The public dialogue has withered, and local participation has been forsaken for big communications companies.

I think that a Fairness Doctrine can be implemented for the "scarce" airwaves, without impacting the "abundant" modes of public discourse, such as the internet, and the comming many-spectrum radio.

By the way, that "many spectrum radio" - there is an example where there is an ARTIFICIAL scarcity - radio channels - because of regulation and legislation by Congress and the FCC pushed by the big communication companies. There really is no reason why there isn't unlimited radio channels, from the new radio secure technologies. But the FCC has put a damper on this, at the behest of the big companies.

I think we can agree that THAT particular limiting regulation can be lifted, yes?

Do you agree with that Andrew?

And if so, then this obviates the need for any Fairness Doctrine for radio waves.

Also, the solution would be the same for TV. If high end broadband is pushed into every home, fairly soon, we would have thousands of TV stations to choose from. That would also obviate the scarcity issues. (As well as provide a leg up in competition for americans.)

But again, the policy issues are strangled by the BIG ISP companies, who don't want this.

So I would shift the discussion - the danger you cite from "politicians" who prevent freedom of expression are the same dangers posed by big companies throwing their weight around to maintain market share. What are your thoughts on that?

There really is no reason why there isn't unlimited radio channels, from the new radio secure technologies.

Eh? What's this? When did RF bandwidth become infinite?

Slart:

Okay, "unlimited" may be too much of an exaggeration - but come on, don't get anal on me. I'm specifically thinking of spread-spectrum technology:

From Wired:

But the radio spectrum isn't land: it's almost infinitely divisible, and, using an innovative technique known as spread-spectrum, can be unobtrusively shared. Like a multilingual cocktail party where everyone is talking equally loud, yet each person can pull out his or her native language from the babble of voices, spread-spectrum allows multiple users to use the same frequency band simultaneously. Spread-spectrum technology, particularly CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), one of its many incarnations, promises to increase the capacity of cellular systems by 10 to 20 times, make the wireless office feasible, and end the copper tyranny.

Also, from Wikipedia:

A collection of new technologies are taking advantage of unlicensed spectrum including Wi-Fi, Ultra Wideband, spread spectrum, software defined radio, cognitive radio, and mesh networks.

Odd. That text doesn't seem to be in your link.

However, the link does mention that unlicensed transmitters are limited to 1 W.

Spread spectrum doesn't really do anything for you, other than possibly allow elimination of guard bands. All CDMA does is allow everyone to use the same spectrum. If there is 10MHz of bandwidth, and each station uses 5kHz, you could have 2000 stations. All stations use the same spectrum, but they have different codes, so the signals are mutually orthogonal in some mathematical sense.

Which is neither here nor there, as AM, FM and TV aren't currently set up that way. It'd take an enormous expenditure in infrastructure at both ends of the signal to change them over. That, and you're not going to run CDMA in the AM band.

"When someone gets beaten up, they're injured and everyone who hears about it is slightly concerned about their safety on the streets. When someone is beaten up by skinheads calling them a dirty Jew, then Jews are severely concerned about their safety, and are being driven out of normal participation in society (oh, not by one incident, but if that sort of thing happened a lot)."

I guess for me the main harm is to the person who gets beaten up.

The other harm is tied up with the problem that policing doesn't seem to be adequately dealing with the more physical problem. The problem with the kind of situation you are describing often has to do with a tacit community acceptance of the bad actions. If the police or prosecutors aren't acting appropriately to stop the abuse, that is better place to attack the problem.

The interesting parallels with hate crimes law as far as your concerns seems to be asylum law, where if you're going to be murdered for the wrong reason if you're deported, too bad for you. You must face persecution "on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

Do you have any feeling on that requirement?
I'm so used to taking it as given that I haven't really thought it through.

Hmm, asylum law isn't something I've studied even a little, but my general feeling is that if you are going to get killed for reasons other than being in a criminal gang or something, we shouldn't send you back. I'm really all for much easier immigration rules, but with harder attempts at assimilation, so I'm not overly bothered by the fact that my rule would tend to allow many more successful asylum petitions. (I do think you have to get here first. The US doesn't have a positive responsibility to save everyone in the world wherever they may be found).

And I'll request that we don't explore what I mean by "assimilation" at this point. That is a whole 'nother thread. :)

Sebastian: I guess for me the main harm is to the person who gets beaten up.

You can feel that way, and still acknowledge that harm is done to the people who have only been put in fear of being beaten up by seeing what happens to others like them.

Slarti,

Well, let's start from a "perfect technological world" - you don't think there can, or will be, a huge increase in the # of radio channels?

"Most poor people these days don't have land lines and so all that stuff about cheap internet is bs."

I assume you have a cite to support this assertion?

"PIMF. LizardBreath said it better."

PIMF?

Please Ignore My F***up. As in SNAFU, the (F) is reader assigned. Posting in blog comments or non-editable forums, sometimes perfectionists (or just anal people) will add a post correcting a typo that slipped through preveously, then add PIMF.

make that "previously"
PIMF

Alternatively:
Acronym Definition
PIMF Pairs in Metal Foil
PIMF Pensacola International Music Festival
PIMF Percent Intramuscular Fat
PIMF Preview Is My Friend
PIMF Price Indexes of Materials and Fuels (UK)
PIMF Product Improved Mini-Flail (Robotic Combat Support System)
PIMF Prototype Integrated Manufacturing Facility
PIMF Pseudo-Instantaneous Mean Frequency

Well, let's start from a "perfect technological world" - you don't think there can, or will be, a huge increase in the # of radio channels?

No. Bandwidth is bandwidth, and I'm guessing that broadcast bandwidth is going to be competing heavily with point-to-point bandwidth. Wireless internet, cell phones, etc.

Sirius and the like may be a local exception, but I really doubt there's going to be a LOT more radio. More like, user-selectable programming via internet, is my guess.

PIMF Preview Is My Friend

Seems like the obvious choice to me. That Urban Dictionary entry looks like a misinterpretation of the acronym, if you ask me.

Slarti,

Between High">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hd_radio">High Definition Radio, where you can broadcast multiple streams on the same band, XM Radio, as well as internet radio, or webcasting, and then whatever happens with wireless radio - to cellphones - I do think that the possibilities of stations are pretty large.

Could you please raise this topic to the top? This deserves more scrutiny than it has received.

Which topic? The post topic, or one of the sidelines in the comments?

Andrew, the post topic. Quite frankly, it deserves more scrutiny that it has received.

Person I Must F***?

I'm just trying to justify the scrutiny ought to be receiving (:

Anarch: Person I Must F***?

Excuse me? LizardBreath and I don't know each other that well!

Although Anarch did make me choke on my tea, which is what I look for in a blog-reading experience. So it's all good.

Person I Must F***?

Okay, I do have to admit that it brought to mind another four-letter acronym ending in F.

Slarti,

Between High Definition Radio, where you can broadcast multiple streams on the same band, XM Radio, as well as internet radio, or webcasting, and then whatever happens with wireless radio - to cellphones - I do think that the possibilities of stations are pretty large.

Sure, multiple streams of present FM-quality audio: compressed and bandlimited. With CD-quality audio, they're still limited by information theory, which pretty much dictates that you can't get something for nothing. IOW, to put 2 (left and right) channels of CD-quality digital audio onto an FM broadcast, you're going to have to use a minimum of 72 kHz of bandwidth; probably effectively more than that. Current FM bands are 200 KHz apart, so it's possible you might be able to cram two separate music channels on one FM band, or even 5.1 surround. The multiple streams they're referring to are, I suspect, station and song identifiers and some low-frequency text like stock streamers, weather alerts, etc. that don't eat up much bandwidth. A stock streamer might put out several characters per second, which is going to eat up maybe a few hundred hertz of bandwidth, max.

Of course, you might do a little better using compression, but avoiding compression is one of the reasons HDR was set up to begin with.

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