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Reader’s Forum: Purge the Airwaves of Misinformation

Rolf Taylor feels the FCC needs to step in to keep the COVID discussion in the “public interest”

I have been in the radio business nearly 40 years. In these grave times I am proud to see radio hunkering down and preparing to do its best to aid the public. It’s a proud tradition, and I know there are many hard at work to make sure that stations will stay on the air, and have the ability to produce and deliver programming over the weeks to come.

However, I would like to mention the dark side of broadcast that I believe, while we speak, is actually endangering lives. If radio and television are to serve the public interest we must purge from the airwaves antifactual misinformation, from any source, that serves to lesson the severity of the threat from the current COVID-19 crisis.

The simplest analysis of what is going on in China and Italy is enough to demonstrate that Americans must curtail their activities for the safety of everyone. Even were there a group that was guaranteed to suffer zero effects from the virus, that group must still avoid spreading the virus for the public good.

Once the health care system becomes overburdened many will die. Not just those that are afflicted by COVID-19, but those that happen to have a heart attack, and find the health care system no longer able to care for them.

Therefore, I call on the FCC to immediately offer advice to licensees as follows:

  • A general advisement that the commission considers deliberate misinformation on health-related matters to be against the public interest and that it will fine licensees for airing such information;
  • Opinion shows, commenting on health-related matters, must be clearly conveyed as “Opinion Only” at the beginning, end, and every 15 minutes during, each opinion show or editorial.

The FCC must act now. Lives are at stake.

Rolf Taylor
Rocket Engineering and Consulting