Jun 1 1987

What’s FAIR?

FAIR is a media watch organization offering constructive criticism in an effort to correct media imbalance. We advocate for media access on behalf of those constituencies in our society that do not have the wealth to purchase their own TV stations or daily newspapers. We scrutinize media practices that slight public interest, peace and minority viewpoints.

All of us who founded FAIR have media backgrounds. Our sympathies are with the working press. We do not view reporters, editors and producers as our enemy. Nor do we hunt for conspiracies. The villain we see is not a person or group, but a historical trend: the increasing concentration of the U.S. media in fewer and fewer corporate hands.

FAIR was launched in mid-1986 at a time when the major media were bending distinctly rightward. Big media businesses were being absorbed by even bigger ones, with dangerous implications for those viewpoints already underrepresented. Well-financed right-wing groups like the misnamed Accuracy In Media (AIM) were harassing journalists who uncovered unpleasant truths about poverty, inequality, government corruption or U.S. military and nuclear policy.

FAIR came into being to offer a different kind of media criticism — fully in keeping with the First Amendment. We do not work to prevent the airing of viewpoints with which we disagree. Our approach is to work for the inclusion of new viewpoints, not the exclusion of old ones. We seek to invigorate free speech by striving for a more pluralistic media.

We are dismayed that leaders of public interest movements generally do not speak for themselves in the major media. A graphic example: the nuclear freeze campaign. Arguably the biggest grassroots movement of the decade, the freeze won virtually every time its proposal was on a ballot. Yet when the freeze was discussed on national TV or in national publications, the leaders of the movement — many of whom were women — rarely got to speak for themselves. Instead they were spoken for by politicians and former leaders of the military establishment.

FAIR seeks to break this pattern of exclusion by dialoguing with media programmers, reporters and editors. In a democratic society, news and responsible opinion should extend beyond the perspectives of government and corporate elites.