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Raising an issue of vital importance to the whole nation, the recent controversy between the Honorable Henry P. Fletcher, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and William S. Paley, President of the Columbia Broadcasting System, is nowhere nearer solution than it was two months ago at the outbreak of hostilites. The part that the great broadcasting networks are to play in presenting political issues to the voting public of America, the editorial power such organizations are to have, the source and limitations of that power, are questions which must be settled now, and settled in such fashion that future controversies will not arise in times of political tension when chicanery is rife and idealism languishing at a low ebb. The importance of broadcasting in the present campaign has assumed a proportion it never before attained, but which is more likely to increase than decrease in the future.
In the present case, Mr. Paley places broadcasting in the same bed with the national press and demands for it the same editorial powers that newspapers enjoy. Under Mr. Paley's gentlemanly and humanitarian administration, Columbia has proved its right to those powers and its ability to use them with wisdom and impartiality. He is to be congratulated for his personal ability and philosophy and the fundamental honesty of his organization. There obtains, however, a vitally important distinction between the newspapers and the broadcasting chains, namely, the chains are under ninety day licenses from the national government.
The Honorable Mr. Henry P. Fletcher, in releasing his letters to the press, in his continued insistance that Mr. Paley is neither honest nor independent, (despite the fact that more Republicans than Democrats have spoken and are scheduled to speak in the future) has given up his claim to consideration as a gentleman and dubbed himself a politician pure and simple. Discontented with impartial treatment, he has reduced himself to the level of the meanest country mud slingers by maligning Columbia publicity because he could not get partial treatment.
Any honest consideration of both sides must uphold Mr. Paley and the stand he has taken in the particular instance; the larger issue, however, transcends both Mr. Paley and the Honorable Henry, and presents itself to the Federal Radio Commission and the legislature which passed the Communications Act of 1934. Broadcasting is too important a thing to be left in the limbo of moot. In the hands of a political mountebank it is a tool that can be insidiously dangerous to honest government.
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