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Journalists and legal scholar agree: government should shut down Fox News

Posted by Richard on July 22, 2010

JournoList was a private email list of leftist news and opinion journalists started and run by the Washington Post's Ezra Klein. Klein shut it down (ostensibly) after the Dave Weigel scandal. Leaked JournoList emails revealed that Washington Post reporter Weigel, who covered the conservative movement, loathed conservatives and used his reporting to undermine and discredit them at every opportunity.

In recent days, additional JournoList archives have been leaked to the Daily Caller, and they contain some eyebrow-raising revelations: journalists plotting to cover up the Jeremiah Wright story and take steps to protect candidate Obama from negative news, arguing in favor of smearing some right-wing pundit ("Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares") as a racist in order to "raise the cost on the right of going after the left," and wanting to watch Rush Limbaugh die of a heart attack because "he deserves it." 

Any number of commentators have weighed in on this ongoing story, like John Fund, James Taranto, Greg Gutfeld, and Alexander Marlow. The latter focused on the latest Daily Caller story's "far-from-shocking revelation" that the JournoList folks really hate Fox News. The discussion of how to control or shut down Fox News, which included people from Time magazine, the Guardian, and the New Republic, is interesting. But the part that really struck me was this: 

Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA, suggested that the federal government simply yank Fox off the air. “I hate to open this can of worms,” he wrote, “but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?”

Broadcasting permit?? Fox News is a cable network. It doesn't broadcast. So it doesn't have or need an FCC license (not permit). Even ABC, CBS, and NBC don't have FCC licenses, only their local affiliates do. Because the networks themselves don't broadcast over the "public airwaves," only their affiliates do. I'm stunned that an apparently respected professor at a purportedly prestigious law school doesn't know this.

(Of course, the situation could change if FCC chair Julius Genachowski's "net neutrality" scam becomes the camel's nose in the tent regarding FCC regulation of non-broadcast communications.)

I wondered how Prof. Zasloff came to be so incredibly ignorant. Well, according to UCLA Law School, this is how:

Jonathan M. Zasloff
Professor of Law
B.A. Yale, 1987
J.D. Yale, 1993
M.Phil. International Relations, Cambridge, 1988
M.A. History, Harvard, 1990
Ph.D. Harvard, 2000
UCLA Law faculty since 1998

Wow. I'm feeling smugly superior, and damned glad I was never intellectually crippled by an Ivy League education.

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2 Responses to “Journalists and legal scholar agree: government should shut down Fox News”

  1. Hathor said

    Exactly what are those round disc thingis we see in the cable companies lots, and explain to me how the signals from the networks got to their local affiliates.

  2. rgcombs said

    πŸ™‚

    OK, keep in mind that IANAL, and I neither know nor care to explore in depth the intricacies of communications law and FCC authority. I know that they have some authority over and issue licenses for just about any RF communications, including various amateur radio and similar uses.

    But in the relevant subject area, they issue “station” licenses in three areas: AM radio, FM radio, and broadcast TV stations. Under the “limited spectrum” and “public airwaves” doctrines, they can grant or deny licenses to those three kinds of stations, prevent interference between stations, regulate “indecent” content, etc.

    They don’t (and I don’t think they can) exercise that kind of control over providers that don’t use terrestrial broadcasting — cable and satellite. That’s why Cinemax is awash in “wardrobe malfunctions” that would make Janet Jackson blush, and the F-bombs abound on HBO comedy specials.

    Remember that IANAL, but I think in technical terms when Fox News (or any other network) beams its signal from a terrestrial dish to a satellite, it’s not broadcasting, it’s narrowcasting. In any case, it could just as easily (although at slightly higher expense) send its signal to the various cable and satellite providers via fiber-optic cable. It’s not sending its programming out into the air for anyone and everyone to get. Not directly. The cable companies don’t send signals into the air at all, of course. The satellite companies do, but not terrestrially and not in a way that encumbers the “public airwaves,” can be picked up by anyone, can cause interference with other stations, etc. So whatever the FCC’s role regarding them is, I’m sure it’s very limited.

    Does that help? πŸ™‚

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