Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

Liberals Seek to Regulate Media They Can’t Compete In

Posted by Adam Graham on January 24, 2007

Cross-posted from WhereIStand

Democrats are back in power in Congress and like last time, they’re seeking to reinstate the so-called "fairness doctrine" which is anything but:

But the most significant aspect of the Hinchey-Sanders bill would be its resurrection of what Thierer calls “the hideously misnamed Fairness Doctrine.” Put in place by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to “afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance.” This was widely interpreted as an “equal time” requirement by station owners — and a reason for shying away from controversial programming; were controversial opinions to be offered by radio editorialists, many broadcasters felt, they had to provide equal time for an opposing point of view. Rather than face threats from federal officials in the name of the “Fairness Doctrine,” small broadcasting executives simply chose not to air programming on controversial issues of the day.

There is considerable evidence that the doctrine was used to intimidate opponents on the airwaves by past administrations — notably that of John F. Kennedy toward the growing number of conservative radio broadcasters in the early 1960s. William Ruder, assistant secretary of Commerce under Kennedy, is quoted as saying: “We had a massive strategy to use the ‘fairness doctrine’ to challenge and harass the right-wing broadcasters and hoped the challenge would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decided it was too expensive to continue.” (Washington Times, September 5, 1993).

Following several court cases that ruled against the “Fairness Doctrine,” the FCC finally discarded it in 1987 on the grounds that it was discouraging rather than encouraging free speech and that the opening of more radio frequencies made varying opinions more accessible to the public. But, as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other conservative broadcasters were on the rise in the 1980s and ’90s, efforts to revive the discarded doctrine were launched by congressional Democrats. In 1987, President Reagan vetoed an attempt by Congress to reinstate the rule by statute. A similar measure was launched by Democratic Sen. Ernest Hollings (S.C.) and Bill Hefner (N.C.) when Democrats controlled Congress and the White House in 1993, but it went nowhere. Now, Hinchey and Sanders are attempting to revive the “Fairness Doctrine” once again at a time when Democrats rule both Houses of Congress and conservatives are still going strong on the airwaves.

Of course, liberals have dreams of this bill killing off media monoliths like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. That’s why the bill’s pushed. 

Decades of experience has shown liberal talk doesn’t make it. The top-rated liberal talk show in America gets 1/10 the rates of Rush Limbaugh and truth be told there aren’t a whole lot of liberal talkers out there that are that successful. Let’s be clear, they’ve had their chance, but most either get cancelled or end up non-entities in the national debate. While I wish my friend, Russ Belville well, he’s facing a tough challenge. It’s so tough that Democrats would rather kill all talk radio, judging their own talk radio to be of inferior quality.

The market is of course the proper judge of what opinion shows air. Rush Limbaugh’s conservatism hasn’t hurt his success, but his talent is what got him there. Same for Hannity, same for Beck.

The radio medium is one that liberals seem destined to have their heads handed to them. I don’t quite know why, but it seems that they don’t like audio and audio doesn’t like them.

You not only see fewer liberal radio shows, but also fewer liberal podcasts. While Democrats embrace blogs to no end, the liberal podcaster is a rarity. Liberals also appear to have a slight edge in Vlodcasts (but those are a relatively new medium.) And even thinking back to 1960, those who listened to Kennedy-Nixon on the radio swore Nixon won. 

Why is it that liberals don’t dominate radio, while dominating the print and television media? Could it be that audio/podcasts is the least pretentious of the three. A degree from a prestigious journalism school, years of working as a reporter up to the right people is required to get a political column in most major papers. TV is more of a style over substance deal. If you’re going to be on television, having a Hollywood star face like Brian Williams or David Gregory helps. (Yes, I know Bob Scheifer doesn’t exactly scream sex appeal, but there’s a reason he was only Dan Rather’s temporary replacement.) 

Radio is the most open media. Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and a host of others started out doing radio as disk jockeys, became popular in that and moved up the ladder. Doesn’t happen in other mediums where you can get hired, increase popularity, and become syndicated. But there are dozens of stories just like there’s. Maybe, they don’t have 600 + stations like Limbaugh, but perhaps they have 40 or 60. It’s a living.  It happens because people can convince listeners of their merit and without the distractions of TV, people are left only with the words and the voice tone and if those words are speaking common sense, you can have a hit.

But not for long if Democrats get their way.

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2 Responses to “Liberals Seek to Regulate Media They Can’t Compete In”

  1. John [Visitor] said

    Right Wing talk radio credibility has taken big hits lately but unfortunately it is the only place to get current events in many parts of the country. As long as 90% or more of the talk radio stations are right wing it will continue as the GOPs most important propaganda and media management tool. It used to be somewhere around 25% of Americans said they got their news from talk radio- how far will it drop? It’s influence goes far beyond that. As it goes so does the GOP- whether it is used to intimidate and attack, spread rumors and construct myths, or defend the indefensible, there is no other medium that allows so much uncontested repetition.

    regardless of how much credibility it has lost, until some kind of new Fairness Doctrine is restored it will continue to distort and degrade whatever democracy America has left, allow the Main Stream Media to maintain it’s right wing biases, and give cover to ignorant pundits.

    until progressives begin calling their local talk radio stations and their sponsors for giving a megaphone to a bunch of unwise blowhard chickenhawks and lying fools without chance of correction, it will continue to be much harder work than it needs to be just to get a little sanity and justice. often the local sponsors of these shows aren’t very aware of the crap they are sponsoring, often it may be part of a package deal. in general the crucial importance of Right WingTalk Radio in the overall effort to get us into this mess has been greatly underestimated

    There has always been a wide audiance for right wing populism in this country, and that long-term trend is not changing any time soon. After all, the corporate media hucksters and scoundrels perform an important function for the ruling elite – getting masses of people to support policies, programs and politicians that run contrary to their own interests and in the interests of Wall Street.

  2. Adam Graham [Member] said

    Yes, we must control what people hear in order for th eleft to win. Freedom of speech and the marketplace don’t matter. Liberalism can’t win under those circumstances. Thanks for being honest enough to admit it.

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