THE LIGHT DAWNS ON BROADCASTERS
Earlier this year several people involved in radio and television news began to question the wisdom of the government's control of the media via the Federal Communications Commission (see "Cronkite's Crisis," in Trends, REASON, February 1971). Since Walter Cronkite's courageous speech last year before Sigma Delta Chi, the conspiracy of silence has been broken. The president of ABC Radio, Walter Schwartz, charged in February that the FCC has "taken on the characteristics of the Great Inquisition.…We are all on trial and the fires of purgatory have been lit for us." Further, he charged, "As broadcasters we are the most vulnerable, for we have been subject to a regulatory body all along—one that, in keeping up with the trend to tear at the structure of the entire business establishment, sees itself in a new and more powerful role." Schwartz suggested that a proper design for the FCC's new seal of office might be "an unfurled whip against a background of red ink."
The next round came from James Reston of the NEW YORK TIMES. Though not a broadcaster, Reston pointed out the mockery of freedom of the press entailed by FCC regulation: "…radio and TV editors are not quite so free [as newspaper editors]. They are under government license. They use 'the people's airwaves' (as if the newspapers didn't use the people's streets and interstate highways), and they operate under different rules. They must submit to an official 'fairness doctrine' which is a government and not a professional journalist's standard. It is enforced by a government licensing agency. The radio and TV people must answer when the FCC inquiries are made, and truth is not necessarily a defense."
Most recently Walter Cronkite again took up the cudgels, this time before a Senate hearing on press freedom called by Senator Sam J. Ervin. "Broadcast news today is not free," he said, "because it is operated by an industry that is beholden to the government for its right to exist; its freedom has been curtailed by fiat, by assumption, and by intimidation and harassment." The solution? Stated Cronkite: "The cleanest and perfect solution would be to eliminate all governmental control of broadcasting. The time is past when there can be any legal justification for controlling broadcasting's program content."
But what about the "need" for the FCC? The UPI story went on to say that Cronkite "dismissed as 'myths' the belief that federal control of broadcasting is necessary because there are so few frequencies and channels available, and to guard against monopoly control of the airwaves." It is ironic that Spiro Agnew and company seem to be (inadvertently) accomplishing what a decade of libertarian rhetoric did not—awakening broadcasters to the absurdity of federal control of the airwaves.
• AP dispatch, 17 February 1971 (Schwartz quotations).
• "TV News Should Be Defended Too," James Reston, NEW YORK TIMES, 14 April 1971.
• "End to Federal TV Control Urged," UPI, 30 September 1971.
• For a detailed proposal to establish a market in radio and TV frequencies, see "A Property System for Market Allocation of the Electromagnetic Spectrum," A.S. DeVany, et. al., STANFORD LAW REVIEW, Vol. 21, June 1969, pp. 1499-561. For background, see "The Federal Communications Commission," R.H. Coase, JOURNAL OF LAW AND ECONOMICS, Vol. 2, October 1959, pp. 1-40.
ANOTHER LOOK AT RACIAL BALANCE
It isn't only blacks and Chicanos who are questioning the wisdom of federally-forced racial balance in public schools. In San Francisco thousands of Chinese parents and students are defying court orders and refusing to cooperate with a court-ordered bussing program. During the first few weeks of school, a near-total boycott of public schools took place in Chinatown. Prior to the opening of school, Chinese parents had appealed to the Supreme Court to no avail for an injunction to prevent the bussing. That action was the first non-southern desegregation case to come before the Court.
As in many black and Chicano neighborhoods, the Chinese in this case have no desire to be forcibly assimilated into middle-class Anglo culture, preferring schools which maintain a familiar ethnic atmosphere and cater to the particular needs of the Chinese community. A spokesman said that "their culture would be endangered if Chinese children were bussed long distances" to attend Anglo schools.
Since their plea fell on deaf ears in the monopoly public school system, the Chinese parents took the logical step of opening their own schools. By the third week in September over a thousand Chinese children were attending four new private neighborhood schools. James Wong, of the Chinese Parents for Quality Education, stated, "We were forced to open these schools because of the strong desire of parents for a free choice of where to send their children." In keeping with the State's concepts of equity, these Chinese families will, of course, continue to be taxed to support public schools. At least for the present.
• "Chinese Parents Challenge Massive Desegregation Order," AP, 18 August 1971.
• "Parents in Chinatown Keep Children Home," UPI, 14 September 1971.
• "Chinese-American Community Forms Schools in San Francisco," AP, 21 September 1971.
PRIESTS DYING OUT?
If present trends continue, the Roman Catholic priesthood "may not survive as a viable force in our society," according to a report on manpower trends prepared for the October Synod of Bishops in Rome. The study found that whereas in 1965 the Church was ordaining 10 priests for every 7 lost (through death, retirement, or dropping out), by 1970 the situation had dramatically reversed such that for every 10 ordinations, 23 priests were lost. Moreover, the median age of priests is steadily increasing.
• "Effectiveness of Priesthood in Jeopardy," John Dart, LOS ANGELES TIMES, 19 September 1971.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Trends".