House Votes To Ban TV Ads From Increasing Volume

The House has voted to act on a common annoyance:

The House on Tuesday voted to level off the abrupt spikes in volume felt by television viewers during commercial breaks.

The bill – approved by a voice vote – is aimed at stopping TV ads from playing noticeably louder than programs.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Rep. Rick Boucher, Virginia Democrat. “It’s an annoying experience, and something really should be done about it.”

Irritated by loud commercials, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat, drafted the measure after discovering it was a common complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

While I agree with the complaints, this is an area where we don’t really need the government to solve all of life’s nuisances.

Posted in Congress, Television. 8 Comments »

Conservative Bias At The Wall Street Journal

While the previous post noted the right wing spin at one Rupert Murdoch newspaper, The Times of London, I’m more concerned with the manner in which Murdoch is moving The Wall Street Journal to the right. I’ve continued my subscription so far, but the newspaper is certainly not The Wall Street Journal of three years ago. David Carr of The New York Times looked at this on the second  anniversary of the sale of this once great newspaper:

But under Mr. Murdoch’s leadership, the newspaper is no longer anchored by those deep dives into the boardrooms of American business with quaint stippled portraits, opting instead for a much broader template of breaking general interest news articles with a particular interest in politics and big splashy photos. Glenn R. Simpson, who left the newspaper back in March, is not a fan of the newsier, less analytical Journal.

“Murdoch didn’t ruin The Wall Street Journal; he just rendered it into a much more ordinary paper,” he said.

But there are growing indications that Mr. Murdoch, a lifelong conservative, doesn’t just want to cover politics, he wants to play them as well.

A little over a year ago, Robert Thomson, The Journal’s top editor, picked Gerard Baker, a columnist for The Times of London, as his deputy managing editor. Mr. Baker is a former Washington bureau chief of The Financial Times with a great deal of expertise in the Beltway. The two men came of age in the more partisan milieu of British journalism.

According to several former members of the Washington bureau and two current ones, the two men have had a big impact on the paper’s Washington coverage, adopting a more conservative tone, and editing and headlining articles to reflect a chronic skepticism of the current administration. And given that the paper’s circulation continues to grow, albeit helped along by some discounts, there’s nothing to suggest that The Journal’s readers don’t approve.

Mr. Baker, a neoconservative columnist of acute political views, has been especially active in managing coverage in Washington, creating significant grumbling, if not resistance, from the staff there. Reporters say the coverage of the Obama administration is reflexively critical, the health care debate is generally framed in terms of costs rather than benefits — “health care reform” is a generally forbidden phrase — and global warming skeptics have gotten a steady ride. (Of course, objectivity is in the eyes of the reader.)

The pro-business, antigovernment shift in the news pages has broken into plain view in the last year. On Aug. 12, a fairly straight down the middle front page article on President Obama’s management style ended up with the provocative headline, “A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough?” The original article included a contrast between President Jimmy Carter’s tendency to go deep in the weeds of every issue with President George W. Bush’s predilection for minimal involvement, according to someone who saw the draft. By the time the article ran, it included only the swipe at Mr. Carter.

On Aug. 27, a fairly straightforward obituary about Ted Kennedy for the Web site was subjected to a little political re-education on the way to the front page. A new paragraph was added quoting Rush Limbaugh deriding what he called all of the “slobbering media coverage,” and he also accused the recently deceased senator of being the kind of politician who “uses the government to take money from people who work and gives it to people who don’t work.”

On Oct. 31, an article on the front of the B section about estate taxes at the state level used the phrase “death tax” six times, but there were no quotation marks around it. A month later, the newspaper’s Style & Substance blog suggested that the adoption of such a loaded political term was probably not a good idea: “Because opponents of estate taxes have long referred to them as death taxes, the term should be avoided in news stories.”

Ben Smith posted the Wall Street Journal’s response, noting that”the text is classically News Corp. in its treating the news business like a political campaign.”

The news column by a Mr David Carr today is yet more evidence that The New York Times is uncomfortable about the rise of an increasingly successful rival while its own circulation and credibility are in retreat. The usual practice of quoting ex-employees was supplemented by a succession of anonymous quotes and unsubstantiated assertions. The attack follows the extraordinary actions of Mr Bill Keller, the Executive Editor, who, among other things, last year wrote personally and at length to a prize committee casting aspersions on Journal journalists and journalism. Whether it be in the quest for prizes or in the disparagement of competitors, principle is but a bystander at The New York Times.

It does sound like a typical right wing political response: attack the enemy personally without any actual factual arguments. There is certainly nothing in their response which demonstrates any errors in Carr’s criticism.

Right Wing Spin of A Gore Mistake

A story in the conservative Times of London shows how the right wing media spins the news to promote denialism of climate change. Whenever people outside of science popularize the work of scientists, regardless of the field, it is inevitable that we will see some over-simplifications and mistakes. Even Al Gore, who has  generally been accurate in popularizing the work of climate scientists, has made a mistake from time to time. As Matthew Yglesias points out, this right wing spin shows why it is dangerous for Al Gore to make any mistakes:

Al Gore, speaking at Copenhagen, cited the work of Dr Wieslav Maslowki to the effect that “there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.” In fact, according to the Times (UK) “Maslowki, who works at the US Naval Postgraduate School in California, said that his latest results give a six-year projection for the melting of 80 per cent of the ice.”

Now it’s true that projecting a 75 percent chance of completely ice free in 5-7 years and projecting 80 percent ice loss in 6 years are different things. Gore seems to have gotten this slightly wrong. Still, Gore’s point was that arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate and that is indeed what Maslowki’s research thinks. It’s totally fair of the Times to point out the error, but what they did was do a whole long article with the headline “Inconvenient truth for Al Gore as his North Pole sums don’t add up,” leading with the assertion that “The former US Vice-President, who became an unlikely figurehead for the green movement after narrating the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, became entangled in a new climate change ’spin’ row.” The fact that Maslowki’s real figure is extremely close to Gore’s an supports the same overall point is suppressed all the way until the eighteenth graf of a story otherwise dedicating to implying that Gore in particular, and climate activists in general, are huge liars.

There’s a lot of shoddy reporting in the climate debate, but this is a reminder that all the way back to the 2000 presidential campaign there are some kind of special journalistic rules that apply to Gore.

While Gore’s error does not alter the real problem that the arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate, conservative bloggers are following the lead of the Times in trying to spin this to support their denial of the scientific consensus.

At least when Gore makes a mistake he is willing to admit it:

Mr Gore’s office later admitted that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Mr Gore.

Instead of showing some journalistic integrity and reporting the facts, the Times further promotes the right wing spin on climate change:

The embarrassing error cast another shadow over the conference after the controversy over the hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, which appeared to suggest that scientists had manipulated data to strengthen their argument that human activities were causing global warming.

This “appeared to suggest” manipulation of data only in the minds of global warming deniers who twisted and misquoted the hacked email. As noted in several recent posts, examination of the hacked email showed that the claims of those using it to try to cast doubt on the science were false and there was nothing in the email which alters the scientific consensus on climate change.