The media focuses attention on stories they believe will attract the most attention. The media also presents stories to maximize the attention the story will receive. This includes reinforcing and advancing viewer biases, selecting academics who will use their credentials to add weight to an opinion, as well as the omission of details and context to cater to viewer bias. The media understands that people consume information that reinforces their biases and avoid information that challenges those biases. The former feels good and the latter feels bad, so reinforcement attracts and challenges repulse. The objective of the media is not to present the truth to inform the public, the objective of the media is to attract attention to sell advertising.
As obvious as this is, the public doesn’t always know this. Some believe that the news provides objective information intent on informing the public. While political biases are fairly obvious other omissions in reporting as well as story selection and emphasis are not. Covid-19, prior to it being politicized, was first exaggerated by the media, then the exaggeration of the danger was reinforced or challenged based on the interests politicians represent, and how they felt it would be advantageous to them in consideration of public perception. In the Covid-19 Media Project basic immune function and statistics are used to calculate risk. That risk is then contrasted with the risk projected by the media and analysis of popular stories reveals the tactics used to exaggerate that risk. Why does the media exaggerate the risk? The exaggeration of danger increases concern from the public which not only attracts greater attention from the viewer, but increases the duration with which the developments can be covered and attract attention.
Non-profit media outlets are no better. The non-profit media outlets exist to reinforce the biases of their donors. Instead of attracting attention for the purpose of advertising, the non-profit media typically has a very narrow viewer perspective and makes every effort to cater to that bias to attract donations.
What I propose is a disclaimer to be present during news broadcasts, and on news articles informing the public of the motivation of these media outlets. Corporations are required by law to serve the interests of their shareholders which is earning a return on their investment. As mentioned, this is accomplished by selling advertising, selling subscriptions, and attracting donations. Should a news outlet fail to attract attention which serves the aforementioned purposes, it ceases to exist.
A preliminary disclaimer would read:
(Company Name) is a for profit company that presents information to attract attention to earn a profit. Stories, details, implied context, and sometimes experts are selected to maximize the amount of attention a story will receive.
Preliminary off the top of my head disclaimer that can be presented at the top of print stories, and for broadcast it can display in a caption on screen. If the FCC is willing to consider the idea after reviewing examples that justify the need, I could contribute something more concise that informs the public that what they are viewing is not an objective presentation.
I’ve attached the Covid-19 Media Project which provides an in depth analysis of popular media stories, print as well as broadcast. The article is over a month and a half old but is still relevant to the subject. More importantly, the analysis of specific media stories exposes how risk was exaggerated to attract and maintain the attention of the virus to serve the business interests of the media.
In addition to what I’ve attached which is a starter of my complaint and proposed remedy, I have numerous other articles I’ve written that are critical of the media to justify the need for this disclaimer. Some of these articles are available at orioncs.net . I would also be interested in analyzing a random sample of national news media to show bias and the need for a disclaimer.
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Organization for Liberation and Popular Legislation