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Sen. Jay Rockefeller has never been shy about criticizing media

January 11, 2013|By Joe Flint
  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) should get credit for wanting to discuss issues that most lawmakers and regulators would rather ignore.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) should get credit for wanting to discuss… (Associated Press )

Sen. Jay Rockefeller's announcement that he won't seek reelection in 2014 may not upset too many folks in the entertainment business. The Democrat from West Virginia and chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has never been shy about bashing the media industry.

Last fall at a confirmation hearing for two nominees for the Federal Communications Commission, Rockefeller said that television news has been "dumbed down" and that entertainment programming was too too "obscene" and "promiscuous."

Rockefeller has been particularly concerned about cable news becoming more about who can shout the loudest and less about informing the masses.

"We have endless barking of a 24-hour news cycle ... journalism that is always ravenous for the next rumor but insufficiently hungry for the facts that can nourish something called our democracy," he said at a 2010 hearing about the cable industry. "I hunger for quality news. I'm tired of the right and left."

It would be easy to dismiss Rockefeller's concerns as coming from someone who longs for the days of three broadcast networks and "Leave It To Beaver" and who doesn't understand the modern media landscape. 

But his fears that too few media companies were controlling too many broadcast and cable networks and that consumers were not given enough say with regards to their pay-TV service are shared by many media watchdogs and consumers.

Like former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, Rockefeller never has been afraid to question the media business on behalf of the public interest. At times he may have sounded out of touch, but he should also get credit for wanting to discuss issues that most lawmakers and regulators would prefer to ignore.

ALSO:

Jay Rockefeller to retire from Senate

Sen. Rockefeller says media is 'dumbed down'

Sen. Rockefeller rips media at hearing on distribution fights

Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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