The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, May 08, 2005
 

The fairness doctrine and Jim Crow radio


Calling for the restoration of the old FCC fairness doctrine [1] (abrogated under the genial Beelzebub himself, Ronald Reagan) is one of those knee-jerk liberal applause lines.

(As if we wanted to give Comstock Copps and his fellow Abominable No-Men even more power to censor broadcast content!)

But I'm led to wonder at the fact that the heyday of the fairness doctrine coincided with the hotting up of racial strife in Dixie.

One Southern radio station I've mentioned several times here: KTBC Austin, the cash cow that Lyndon Johnson pumped for years with a little bit of help from his friends at the FCC (who else?).

Now, Austin (so far as I'm aware) was always a liberal town (relative to other Texan burgs, that is!). After all, Bill Moyers is a noted KTBC alum. But even Austin would have had its limits when it came to breaching the color-line. Unfortunately, there is nothing online on the subject (that I can see).

However, there is an extended piece Television News and the Civil Rights Struggle: The Views in Virginia and Mississippi by William G Thomas III [2] which, amongst other topics, covers the case of WLBT Jackson which
proved exceptionally biased in its news coverage and commentary, so much so that the [FCC] in 1969 revoked its license. This drastic action came after years of litigation and marked the only time in FCC history that it took a license because of racial bias in programming.

  1. A useful paper (PDF) on the subject.

  2. Its bibliography - pretty much dead-tree only - is remarkably thin, given the salience of both race and broadcasting in American life.

    The best chance of finding detailed research online on a topic like this is in the shape of an ETD. I can find none.



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