Has the Media Become the Fourth Branch of Government?

By Eric G Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

“You don't really need to find out

What's going on

You don't really want to know

Just how far it's gone

Just leave well enough alone

Eat your dirty laundry”

(Don Henley)

As you probably know, the United States has three branches of government, The Executive, Legislative and Judicial, (relax there’s no quiz) all of which have a different duty and level of authority. All three are supposed to keep each other in check--at least that what the founding fathers had in mind.

Like it or not, we now have a fourth branch of government, and we in part, are to blame for its rise and prominence. Since the beginning of time, we've always had politics, and those who kept them on the straight and narrow. It’s an important, responsible job whose mission it is to inform the people of both sides of an issue, and let the people decide for themselves how they weighed in on an issue affecting them, and the country.

What some call the rise of the media, I call its downfall.

Gone is the respect between reporters and politicians. There was a line as a reporter you didn’t cross, and as a politician you kept your friends close and your enemies and reporters closer.

Mass media was supposed to be good for the country. A well-informed electorate should be the cornerstone of a democracy or republic. The foundation built by our parents and grandparents used real materials building the country, generations since have built it with the dollar store supplies.

We can’t blame it all on the media though, no matter how tempting.  We wanted to be informed, we wanted instant pictures; the worse and more protruding into personal lives the better. The networks, print media, (or at least what’s left of it) have no sense of morality or ethics. Newsworthy events are fair game, we all accept that, and hope we are not the subject of what society deemed appropriate to gossip about to millions.

Since the media is not capable of policing its own, it opens the door to regulating the industry. No, I’m not a proponent of that or for much that involves trusting the government or media. However, have we reached a point where we tell media executives to get together, come up with a set of ethics and responsible standards of what’s fair game and off limits? What constitutes the very definition of a “reliable source” or fake news?

The FCC used to have a fairness doctrine. This doctrine requires a cable television system operator engaging in origination cablecasting to give reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on controversial issues of public importance.  Although this requirement still appears in the Commission's rules, it is no longer enforced because of a federal court's decision in Syracuse. The Federal Communications Commission already regulates how much a cable system allows a legally qualified candidate to use its facilities (by identifiable voice or picture), it must give "equal opportunities" to all other legally qualified candidates for that office to use its facilities.  The cable system cannot censor the content of the candidate's material in any way, and cannot discriminate between candidates in practices, regulations, facilities, or services rendered pursuant to the equal opportunities rules.

No, I’m not suggesting we infringe upon any rights, freedom of the press or the 2nd amendment, and as a veteran I hold our Constitution like I would hold one of my sons.

The media was once a needed watchdog. Like any dog, they pushed the boundaries of its masters, they took advantage of their freedom and stopped listening.

It’s time to put them back on the leash.

“We can do the Innuendo
We can dance and sing
When it's said and done
We haven't told you a thing
We all know that Crap is King
Give us dirty laundry”

(Don Henley)

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