In a report on the recent FCC rules tightening requirements for telemarketers, CBS Radio couldn't resist loosening a shot at Sarah Palin even though she has been out of office for several years already and has taken no part in political robocalls for some time. (Listen to audio HERE.)
There is one area of media bias that many of us overlook and that is radio. All the big news outfits have radio shows, newsbreaks, radio offerings of all sorts, but we rarely talk about them for one reason: it's hard to link to a just finished radio broadcast! Radio newsbreaks come and go in a nearly ephemeral manner and rarely can you catch it again, not to mention that rarely do you have something on hand to record it. Once you hear them they are gone so it's hard to report on the bias constantly revealed in radio broadcasts. But the bias is there nonetheless.
Another reason radio is often ignored is that few of the networks put their newsbreaks up on the Internet so that you can review them. And those that do put them on the Internet, well they don't make finding specific bits easy to track down. Then again, network radio news is not now a big focus of media with print and TV taking precedence.
Anyway, these reasons tend to cause we media watchdogs to sort of pass right over radio news. Me, I listen to radio a lot and almost daily hear examples of bias in radio news. I remember, for instance, during the 2000 election listening to a newsbreak being reported live from a George W. Bush appearance followed by one reported from an Al Gore campaign stop. Where the radio network's bias was obvious was that in the background of the Gore rally you could hear happy supporters cheering their candidate, but the reporter at the Bush rally chose angry protesters to stand in front of and do his report and the angry chants were clearly heard by the listener. Gore = happy, Bush = angry. Not too biased, eh?
The latest one in question was also obvious for its message of bias. In the newsbreak played in the early evening of February 15, CBS Radio correspondent Viki Barker couldn't help delivering an underhanded slap to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
The report was about new FCC regulations requiring telemarketers to get written permission from consumers to call their landline phones. Barker began her report by casting robocalls in a negative light and presenting the FCC's new rules as a positive development. The "actuality" -- what some radio folks call sound bytes -- behind Barker's report was that of a robocall from the phone book company Yellowbook. At the end of the report Barker made sure to note that political calls are excluded from the new restrictions. So, what actuality did Barker use to denote an unwanted political robocall? You guessed it, a Sarah Palin call.
Why did CBS use Sarah Palin's voice in its report slamming robocalls? Palin hasn't been making political robocalls for several years, now, since she left office in 2009.
Ah, but we do know why, don't we? It's because CBS couldn't imagine a more unwanted call than one by that eeevil Sarah Palin, right? Palin represented the worst of the worst to CBS, so they reached back several years to find a Palin robocall to serve as its negative example of a political robocall.
Nope. Not much bias there.
You didn't ask for them, you may have tried to stop them, but you're still getting that autodialed, telephonic spam.
(Sound of robocall in back ground from Yellowbook: "This is Yellowbook calling to…")
Well, the FCC is approving tougher rules requiring telemarketers to get written consent before calling your landline.
(Sound of a Sarah Palin robocall in background)
Robocalls from political campaigns, schools and other non-profits. They're considered informational.
Vicki Barker, CBS News.
(If the link above to the CBS radio report goes defunct, it is also archived HERE.)