Benner On Washington: ‘The Ostrich Syndrome’

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Long before Media Information Bureau featured columnist Ken Benner began writing about “the abuse of the media and, in particular, broadcasting,” he penned countless columns for other publications on the topic of consumer financial abuse.


Benner’s longtime fight for consumer concerns fueled his desire to fight for radio and TV station owners. In this column, his discontent with Capitol Hill leaders continues.


By Ken Benner

Bank fraud. Identity theft. Double billing. Insurance fraud. Medical fraud.

Fine Print Abuse.

These are the many topics that comprise the still-troubling subject of consumer financial abuse.

In 1969, it led me to incorporate a small 501(c)(3) nonprofit I called the “American Council on Consumer Awareness.”

We were funded to the extent that we were able to produce a syndicated radio program,  “Consumer Concerns,” which aired on about 20 or so stations throughout the Midwest. Prominent national consumer advocates including Ralph Nader were interviewed on the program for their suggestions.  

The Council received several grants to fund research into how the public pays a heavy price for dozens of difficult-to-define exploitation schemes. 

Tied to those efforts,  I still travel to Washington at least once or twice a year as one of the more than 200 state and local members of the Consumer Federation of America, the nation’s largest and most dedicated consumer-oriented organization. 

All of this has been an education in itself by illustrating how the masses can be so easily manipulated with overwhelming, confusing information. Indeed, as I have written before, “Keep the masses adequately confused, frustrated and frightened and you will have them completely under your control.”

What prompted this column was a recent note from a former journalism student who attended one of my presentations while conducting radio station inspections for small colleges where the J-101 Professor was also saddled with the frustrating responsibility of “managing” the college radio station.

The student asked if I could send her one of my handout sheets pertaining to developing and maintaining what was then known as “maintaining absolute integrity in American Journalism and how to address alleged breeches of such.” 

That subject today is almost impossible to address. Since that handout was available some fifteen years ago, the American people have been subject to a barrage of overwhelming information shouted our way in both our print and broadcast media today.

Now, apply that subject of integrity and consumer trust to the way broadcasters had been subject to certain FCC requirements over the last several years.

One classic example among hundreds is the FCC-required Public File folder related to the airing of political ads. This in my view was prompted by wealthy, effective, heavy-handed, lobbyist-financed politicians as part of a plan to manipulate and control political advertising. They’ve also got their hands in the content, and the costs associated with political ads.

I urge you to take a quick tour of the FCC website’s vast vault of materials related to the Political Public File Folder. I’m sure you’ll verify this abuse, and I guarantee you will soon find yourself engulfed in the comfort and security of The Ostrich Syndrome. 

Consumers for decades have been blindly led down roads that have resulted in them being taken advantage of. In similar ways, federal regulatory policy has blindly been accepted by broadcasters, to the harm of not only them but the consumers they serve.

Let’s not lose sight of how we can do our part in draining the swamp by sticking our heads out, and making right some of the wrongs many don’t even know are still on the books.

 


Ken Benner is an independent Alternative FCC Compliance Certification Inspector and a research analyst for the Coalition for Transparency, Clarification and Simplification of Regulations pertaining to American Broadcasting. Benner has more than 55 years of experience providing service to the broadcast industry.

The views expressed by Media Information Bureau columnists are those of the writer only and not of the editorial board of the Radio + Television Business Report or its parent, Streamline Publishing.

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