I'm sick of the media - such as Rush Limbaugh - hiding under 1st Amendment protections by claiming that their political punditry is "for entertainment only".
The news media is not an entertainment force. That is not the "press". While parody and satire serve an essential function (the Court Jester principle), and could be considered entertainment, it's only a side-function. The purpose of it is to skewer the government, and keep it on track. To provide accurate information that the populace might not otherwise get.
Today's media has completely stepped outside the bounds of its role. Part of the social contract here is that the media MUST be truthful. It cannot dance across the line of fact vs. fiction.
Why is this distinction important?
Because when people such as Hannity, or Rush Limbaugh side-step slander & libel laws by claiming that their shows are for entertainment purposes only (which I've never actually heard them say on their shows), they are deliberately playing with a loophole we set up via the constitutional right to freedom of speech. Because these people are NOT citizens as far as the constitution is concerned - they are the PRESS. They have more power than individuals, and as such, as in a separate category - even in that original document.
With today's media reaching millions of people instantaneously, they have more power than ever.
I say we should stop this. And we can do it without risking affecting the 1st amendment.
The FCC already mandates that stations report their ident several times an hour, on both television and radio. The FCC should also mandate, that to receive protection from libel & slander lawsuits, media should CLEARLY label whether their shows are true News, or are using the loophole and running under the auspices of Entertainment.
How this should work is simple:
At the start of the show, the host must clearly state that this is for entertainment purposes only, and is not intended to be news or provide any factual content. (We can shorten this over time, once people get the idea - but at some point during the show, we should get a full statement of intent if the content is not intended to be factual. If it's intended to be factual, no warning is necessary).
Throughout the show, along with the station ident, a brief disclaimer should be played. We can do this every advert break.
Pretty quickly, people would get the point. No need to strengthen our libel & slander laws and go down that slippery slope - and it entirely gets around the fairness doctrine argument.
If they want to lie to us over the public airwaves, they need to play by OUR rules. So let's change the rules.
Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.
The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).