Issue two types of broadcast licenses. A commercial license and an information license.
Does broadcasting in the public interest mean providing consumers with the infotainment they want to see or does it mean providing citizens with information they need to know? Our collective narrative is all important and while Americans have always been uncomfortable with government control of media, and rightly so, we've decided that it's O.K. for the media to be controlled almost exclusively by commercial interests. There is clearly a conflict of interest here. Showing people what they want to see is a much different activity than providing useful information. This is not simply a problem of content but about the nature of media itself. Current brain imaging techniques confirm that much of the attraction of T.V. has more to do with style than content. Viewers tend to be mesmerized by colorful moving images. Words require context and continuity to make sense, pictures do not. Moving pictures allow us to suspend reality while our emotions are stimulated making viewing television more like a carnival ride than reading a book. Moving pictures are ideal for advertising and propaganda but not well suited for complex , nuanced issues.
I propose that two types of broadcast licenses be issued. One would be a commercial/entertainment license, allowing broadcasters to operate much as they do now. The second type would be a news/information license. It would be commercial free and have strict requirements regarding the style of broadcast, perhaps being limited to text only. News stations would have direct, exclusive access to news services which would be supported by subscriptions or some combination of private and public funding. An updated fairness doctrine would apply requiring that all sides of an issue be covered. Additionally, as with traditional journalism, truth would be the goal, not profit. Out of work newspaper reporters could staff the news services. This would also be an ideal venue for e-books. While many people might choose to get their news from commercial stations, a time delay might be imposed before commercial stations report the latest news increasing the value of the text only stations. Perhaps the commercial broadcasters would be required to donate airtime for political candidates, as is done in most other developed countries. This would mitigate the corrosive effect of expensive political T.V. ads.
In 1958, Edward R. Murrow lamented that our electronic media, which has such great potential to inform and illuminate was more often used to insulate and distract. I expect things have become much worse in this regard than he could have imagined.
My concern can be summed up in the title of Neal Postman's book,"Amusing ourselves to death". As faster internet connection speeds are available, moving pictures will become even more ubiquitous. Now is the ideal time for the FCC to make such a change and attempt to make a distinction between useful information and entertainment.