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Issue of the Week: Is Right-Wing Radio Criminal?

Plus: Hero of the Week

Nov. 28, 2012
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Radio and television news differs from newspapers in that radio and television use the very limited public airwaves, while newspapers are totally private enterprises. The government certainly doesn’t subsidize newsprint.

Since radio and television stations get access to these precious public airwaves for a very nominal fee, which is a huge government subsidy, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), acting in the public interest, created the Fairness Doctrine in 1949, which required these licensed stations to present controversial issues of public concern and to do so in a balanced manner by providing contrasting views. That all ended in 1987, when the FCC decided to do away with the Fairness Doctrine. It formally eliminated the policy in August 2011.

With the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, radio and television stations no longer have to be fair and balanced and can provide just one side of a controversial issue. Now, with the rise of angry right-wing talk radio, radio stations have started using our public airwaves to go several steps further than just presenting one point of view. These radio stations are using the public airwaves during campaign season essentially as an extension of right-wing political campaigns—especially for the tea party crowd. So our public resources are unabashedly being used to promote partisan candidates during an election season. The obvious question then becomes, how does a right-wing radio talk show host’s political activity differ from a legislative or executive staff person’s use of public resources to campaign for a partisan candidate?

Former County Executive Scott Walker’s deputy chief of staff, Kelly Rindfleisch, was just sentenced to six months in jail for using public resources for partisan campaigning. There is a broad consensus that her use of our public resources for political campaigning was wrong and criminal. So how are Rindfleisch’s actions any different than the right-wing radio talk show hosts’ blatant use of our public airwaves for partisan campaigning? When the right-wing talkers use the daily scripts provided by the Republican Party or Republican candidates’ campaigns to set the agenda for their programs, they are acting as an extension of the Republican Party. When they use the fabricated “facts” about Democratic candidates provided by the Republicans and spew this misinformation and right-wing bile against a candidate for days and weeks before an election, how is that any different from what Kelly Rindfleisch did and for which she was sentenced to jail? They both used public resources for partisan political campaigns. Something just doesn’t appear fair and balanced.

Heroes of the Week: Athletes for Autism Founder and Volunteers

Ronny Thompson founded Athletes for Autism (A4A) in Milwaukee (1850 N. Martin Luther King Dr., Suite 201) a little over a year ago to help families affected by autism spectrum disorders regain emotional balance and improve their quality of life. To do this, Thompson has partnered with the Wisconsin Athletic Club, Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin, Discovery World and other organizations to connect families affected by autism with fitness and diet programs. Thompson wants to bring positive change and growth to autistic children and their families today—not years from now—by teaching parents and kids new exercise and eating habits and collaborating with businesses and other organizations to help make these learning experiences memorable.

“We have over 12 volunteers so far and would love to have more volunteers with fitness and diet expertise,” says Thompson. “I cannot say enough about the people who volunteer with A4A. We cannot be successful without them.”

This nonprofit is in need of volunteers and additional collaborators. Those interested in volunteering or collaborating are encouraged to call the main office at 414-563-9480 or Thompson at 414-803-9676. All families affected by autism are welcome to utilize the programs offered by A4A. To learn more about the organization and its programs, call the phone numbers listed above or visit athletesforautismfoundation.org




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