A discouraging new study of local television news in Los Angeles by the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism inspired Mike James, editor of the essential online newsletter NewsBlues.com, to renew his offer last week to become America's "News Czar." (An offer, he points out, that has yet to be accepted by the Obama administration.)
Herewith, republished with permission, is James' 12-step program to re-establish public control of the airwaves and improve local and network news once and for all:
- Step 1: Take back control of the nation's airwaves. Require the owners of every TV and radio station to reapply for broadcast licenses. New licenses will be issued ONLY to individuals or local ownership groups.
- Step 2: Outlaw multiple station ownership. Eliminate groups. Encourage newspapers to own and operate local TV and radio outlets as news cooperatives.
- Step 3: Require everyone who works in television to pass a test to obtain a broadcast license. This license must be renewed on a regular basis and can be revoked at any time by a review committee.
- Step 4: Order the immediate arrest and detention of all news anchors who thank reporters for their reports.
- Step 5: Impose staggering financial penalties against any news organization using the phrase EXCLUSIVE. Similar fines will be levied against anyone using the term BREAKING NEWS more than three hours after the initial report. And local anchors who utter "Straight ahead" will be dealt with severely.
- Step 6: All TV stations will be required to go by their actual god-given FCC call letters. No more of this Action, Eyewitness, Newschannel branding silliness. TV stations are not "On Your Side." And local news doesn't "Come First."
- Step 7: All local EMMY awards will be banned, outlawed, and driven underground, like cockfights. Edward R. Murrow, duPont-Columbia University, and Peabody awards will be given only when deserved.
- Step 8: All Doppler weather radar systems will, henceforth, be known as Doppler weather radar systems.
- Step 9: Morning news programs will no longer be allowed to begin with the words "Good Morning."
- Step 10: News promos that require on-air personalities to sing or dance will be met with heavy fines.
- Step 11: News managers who allow on-air proposals of marriage will have rusty ice picks driven into their foreheads.
- Step 12: Les Moonves will be required to give back a big chunk of his salary and future compensation will be capped, with no bonuses or incentives to slash news budgets. He will also be required to relinquish his Friars Foundation Applause Award.
And don't even get him started on Katie Couric.