I have mentioned here before that I believe that talk radio host accept payments by right-wing PACs to push certain issues to prominence. I have dubbed this practice "Talkola" after "payola," which I believe was not a real problem but the reaction of a bunch of cranky old men in the 50's to rock and roll. I've convinced one of my co-workers of this. He told me he has given up listening to talk radio because all of the host talked about the same topic for more than a month.
Now All Access reports that FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, in a speech to the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis over the weekend, suggested the same thing. Only he isn't talking about PACs, he is suggesting that the Bush administration was behind the positive spin given to the Iraq War by talk radio as well as the news media.
"According to news reports, analysts who disagreed with the information given to them lost access," ADELSTEIN asserted. "This comes in the wake of new revelations that network executives pressured news reporters to develop Administration-friendly angles when we were heading to war. Today, I commit to you that I plan to demand a real and thorough investigation. We need to determine, without delay, whether the DoD violated the laws we enforce against payola.
"These rules prohibit anyone involved with preparing broadcast or cable programs from accepting anything of value without disclosing it to the public," ADELSTEIN continued. "This is not just a question of journalist ethics and integrity. It is the law. The war in IRAQ is clearly a controversial issue of public importance. The American people have a legal right to know when the government is sponsoring the source that is purporting to provide objective analysis."
Adelstein also mentioned that it is illegal to use federal funds for propaganda purposes. "The federal anti-propaganda and payola laws are grounded on the principle that the public is entitled to know who seeks to persuade them so they can make up their own minds about the credibility of the information presented," he said. "The public has a legal right to know that people who present themselves to be independent, unbiased experts and reporters are not shills hired to promote a corporate -- or governmental -- agenda."
Adelstein continued, "It is time for us to curb the excesses of commercialism, as CONGRESS intended," he declared. " We need to ... develop new rules to clarify that sponsorship identification has to be clear and understandable. It should not be buried in a compressed crawl at the end of a show that would take a magnifying glass to read. "We need to fight thinly disguised payola fueling homogenized corporate music that leaves no room for local and independent artists. We need to fight video news releases masquerading as news, with public relations agents pushing agendas that squeeze out real news coverage and local community concerns. We need to fight product placements turning news and entertainment shows alike into undisclosed commercials. And we need to fight rapacious advertisers preying on the unsuspecting minds of our young children."
Here is a transcript of the speech. It is great reading.