Excerpted from a speech entitled Call To Action by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at Bloor Street United Church for the Learning Annex on Thursday, June 23.
Most Americans don't know about environmental problems, because we have in our country a negligent and indolent press. The biggest lie that the right wing holds in our country is that there is such a thing as a liberal media. Americans are getting their news from the right-wing media.
Sinclair Networks, the largest television network in America, forces all 75 of its local TV affiliates to take a pledge that they won't report critically on this president or bad news about the war in Iraq. They don't have an obligation [to report critically] because Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine in our country back in 1987.
This doctrine stated that the airwaves belong to the public. The networks had provisos in their licences that they use the airwaves to benefit the public interest. They had to, for example, avoid consolidation. [The purpose] was to make sure we wouldn't have programming dictated by a couple of corporate epicentres.
The Fairness Doctrine also required that all the airwaves be used to enhance our democracy. Networks had to publish news, they had to tell both sides of the story. You couldn't have had a Fox News, you couldn't have had a Rush Limbaugh 24 hours a day on one station.
But today, because Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine, six giant multinationals now own virtually every one of the 14,000 radio stations in America, all 6,000 television stations and 80 per cent of our newspapers. So you have six guys dictating what Americans hear as news.
News departments no longer have an obligation to serve the public. Their only obligation is to advance their shareholders' interests. How do you do that? Not by telling the news, but by the entertainment factor, by appealing to the lowest common denominator.
All that's happened ? the celebrity gossip, the sex they give us, the Michael Jacksons, the Laci Petersons, the Kobe Bryants ? denies us the real news we need to stay in a democracy.
Most of the American people have no clue what's going on in this White House. Seventy per cent of all people who voted for George Bush believe that Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center. Sixty-five per cent believe that President Bush strongly supported the Kyoto Protocol. Americans don't have a clue.