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Democratic senator: Get rid of Fox, MSNBC to improve political discourse

By John Byrne
Thursday, November 18, 2010 8:18 EDT
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A Democratic senator strayed from his prepared remarks at a Senate committee hearing about television retransmission, saying that a “little bug” inside him wants to see the end of Fox News and MSNBC because of what he sees as a pollution of political discourse.

“There’s a little bug inside of me which wants to get the F.C.C. to say to Fox and to MSNBC, ‘Out. Off. End. Goodbye,’” he said. “It would be a big favor to political discourse; to our ability to do our work here in Congress; and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and, more importantly, in their future.”

The senator, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), also added that he believes cable television news has devolved into pure-play entertainment.

“When it comes to developing content, our entertainment machine is too often in a race to the bottom,” Rockefeller said. “Even worse, our news media has all but surrendered to the forces of entertainment.

“Instead of a watchdog that is a check on the excesses of government and business, we have the endless barking of a 24-hour news cycle,” he continued. “We have journalism that is always ravenous for the next rumor, but insufficiently hungry for the facts that can nourish our democracy. As citizens, we are paying a price.”

The New York Times notes, however, “There is little the Federal Communications Commission can say about Fox News or MSNBC since the channels are on cable, not delivered over the broadcast airwaves.”

Rockefeller also rebuked cable television in general for its paucity of content.

“The old adage of ‘500 channels and nothing on’ has never been so true as it is today,” he said.

 
 
 
 
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