Decisions At ABC Show How Media Aids Marginalization Of Minorities

Though Americans are not the inventors of mass communication, the country has certainly been more influential in propagating the use and growth of all modern mediums of mass communications than any other society in history, either directly or inadvertently. From the humble newsletter of Colonial time and the Morris Code that helped connect the world during the latter part of the 19th century to AM radio of the 40s, black and white televisions of the 50s and today’s internet, propaganda and entertainment travel via the same methods.  

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is part of the very same machine that has oppressed our ancestors. As methods of communication evolve, marginalized populations are continually fighting objectification and further disenfranchisement under the FCC umbrella.  

Have you ever heard of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine? Introduced in 1949, the policy required broadcast license holders to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced.  The policy was eliminated in 1987, Ronald Reagan’s last year in office, and completely removed from the Federal Register in 2011 after it was gutted by George W. Bush years earlier in 2005. 

The doctrine required broadcasters to devote some airtime to discussing controversial issues and air contrasting views regarding those same matters. Equal time was not required for opposing views, but at least individuals got to “hear” the other side. 

You wonder why Fox is so Fox, while MSNBC is so MSNBC? For many media scholars, the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine is the reason why. 

Mass media’s role in informing the public thought process has been debated with each era of new technological advancement.   

This paradigm was alluded to in a 1994 paper published by the London School of Economics and Political Science, which itself pulled quotes from media thinkers from the late 60s, early 70sa time of great upheaval in America. 

“We explore the role played by the mass media in political participation, in particular in the relationship between the laity and established power. There is a long-running debate in media theory over the ways in which the media not only disseminate elite, critical opinion but also influence the formation, expression, and consumption of public opinion (J.D. Halloran, 1970; Kurt Lang and Gladys Lang, 1968).” 

Is it ethical to allow media to “influence the formation, expression, and consumption of public opinion”? 

Though heightened media polarization has poisoned the populous against the concept and belief in media objectivity, media homogeny will be the end game.  

Recently, dozens of news outlets and publications were appalled at a script that Sinclair Broadcasting, which nearly 200 television stations across the country, required respective local news channel anchors to read.  Full disclosure, it’s a bit unsettling. 

Sinclair’s script for stations

Uploaded by D on 2018-03-31.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sinclair, you may recall that they required some of their outlets to run anti-John Kerry campaign ads in the 2004 presidential election. Additionally, with a favorable administration in office, Sinclair is poised to swallow up another 40 television stations.  

That is an addition to the television stations, news publications, and other media that Sinclair owns. Sinclair can touch millions of people who unsuspectingly believe they’re watching news that is objective and necessary. But, no. It hasn’t been like that for a very, very long time. 

Currently, Roseanne Barr returned to television in “Roseanne,” appealing to working-class white America.  This is the same Roseanne, who dressed up like Adolf Hitler and ate little people shaped cookies as a joke. ABC, who we’re led to believe is family-friendly and objective, has welcomed her back with open arms and Barr set it off immediately, taking potshots and Black-ish and Fresh Off The Boat in a new episode. These are two of ABC’s most successful shows, yet someone approved it. Still think it’s a game, huh?

christine teigen on Twitter

Argh. Hit show on ABC. we have reached peak normalization.

Barr, despite the troublesome things she has said about minorities, women, and gays over the years, is back on national TV but simultaneously we learned that television producer and writer Kenya Barris is seeking to get out of his deal with ABC over several issues, the cancellation of a sociopolitical episode discussing Colin Kaepernick speculated as being primary among them.  

Could you imagine if, say, Monique had a show but old photos resurfaced in which she dresses up Nat Turner eating some “cracker” cookies? Hell, the Anti-Defamation League came for Jay Z for saying Jews owned all the property in America, a worldview that was undoubtedly shaped by those growing up in New York City. Yet here’s what Barr’s producer had to say her most recent “slip”.  

Kurt Eichenwald on Twitter

The photo is real. @therealroseanne burned cookies that looked like people in an oven while dressed as Adolph Hitler. I am actually crying. I think of the anguish of my family. I think of this little boy, Antosh, my sons’ great uncle, murdered at 11. One of Roseanne’s cookies.

Roseanne co-showrunner Bruce Helford shared his feelings about the images during a wide-ranging interview: 

I know that Roseanne is a very staunch supporter of Israel and she has said as much, Helford said. I imagine theres probably some amount of parody involved and all that. I dont know the context of that so I wouldnt make a comment on it. My feeling is that people should just watch the show and judge it on its merits. Watch the show without the accompanying background noise. Everybody, including Roseanne, wanted the show to be balanced. When we talk about wanting to open a dialogue in America, thats something that the show does. Were not trying to perform brain surgery or cure cancer. We all hoped that this would open a dialogue where people would start laughing at themselves a little bit, get a little less polarized and realize that this is a universal conversation. Lots of families find themselves divided on these issues. Theres got to be a way to talk and still love each other the way that Roseanne and Jackie made their peace [in the revivals premiere]. And thats really what we want to have come out of it.

You see how this works? Roseanne gets a vote of confidence for repeated questionable behavior, but a brother can’t even air ONE EPISODE about the black sociopolitical experience? Right. 

Remember, the news is entertainment and entertainment is news. They are interchangeable.  There’s a reason why Barr is welcomed on mainstream television, yet the brilliance of Barris isn’t allowed to bloom unfettered.  As mainstream America becomes increasingly right-leaning, television will reflect what it feels its viewers want to see. In greenlighting Barr while handcuffing Barris, ABC has told you what it believes America wants to see.  

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