Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Talk Radio’s Future Still In Doubt

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

Many might agree that there is no one more intolerant of an opposing point of view than a liberal. The fact they would like to shut down or reduce the amount of conservative talk radio available to listeners today is a sign of their continued paranoia.

In June of last year, by a vote of 309-115, the U. S. House of Representatives defeated an attempt to impose the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters, primarily aimed at conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh. While this was certainly a victory for free speech, Republicans continue to worry about new regulations if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008.

The Fairness Doctrine, crafted in 1929, required broadcasters to balance political content with different points of view. It often ended up doing the opposite. Station owners, fearing potential law suits, frequently sought to avoid controversy instead.

The Fairness Doctrine was anything but fair. Bill Ruder, assistant secretary of Commerce under President Kennedy acknowledged that “Our massive strategy [in the early 1960’s] was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and thus decide it was too expensive to continue.”

In 1984, U. S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, writing for the majority in a test of the Fairness Doctrine, stated that in effect it was “chilling speech” and that the Supreme Court would be forced to revisit the constitutionality of the doctrine if it did have “the net effect of reducing rather than enhancing speech.” In 1987 the FCC abolished it. Yet in 1991 Democrats attempted to reinstitute it, but backed off under the threat of a veto by then President George H. W. Bush.

Conservative talk radio burst on the scene in 1988 with Rush Limbaugh. Today there are many other conservative syndicated talk radio hosts like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, Bill Bennett, Bill O’Reilly, and Laura Schlessinger. If there is an AM radio station in a market, there’s probably talk radio.

Conservative talk radio reaches more than 75 million listeners and is very profitable. It’s the lifeblood of AM Radio. Yet liberal Democrats still want the Fairness Doctrine re-instated. Unable to compete in the free market place of ideas, liberals will continue to try and do what they do best- over regulate it out of existence.

Its not that liberals haven’t tried to compete in talk radio. Air America was born in March of 2004, led by Al Franken and a host of other celebrities that today include Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartman and Rachel Maddow. In over three years this network has yet to develop a significant listening audience. In October of 2006 Air America filed for bankruptcy. They still operate today. But with few listeners and fewer advertisers many stations are drowning in red-ink, simply to appease Democrats they fear may sweep to victory in 2008 and reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

Reading the tea-leaves these station owners’ fears may be justified. Democrats like retired General Wesley Clark and former Vice President Al Gore, along with Democratic Senators Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein and John Kerry, are all in favor of reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, both Democrats, want to “aggressively pursue” its reinstatement as well.

“Media Matters for America” is a not for profit organization formed in 2004. Its stated purpose is to monitor, analyze and correct conservative misinformation in the U. S. media. This is the same organization that was behind the smear campaigns last year against Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly that backfired. They’re also responsible for the firing of Don Imus by his employer over his racist remarks.

In a speech in Chicago last August 4th,, only 37 days after the Fairness Doctrine’s attempted revival was hammered in the House, Hillary Clinton proudly announced that she was one of the founders of Media Matters. If one needs further proof that the Fairness Doctrine will be at the top of her agenda if she is our new president, this may be it.

It’s a funny thing about freedom of speech. Racist comments like those made by Don Imus disgust me. And Howard Stern? I won’t waste this newspaper’s ink describing my feelings for his brand of “entertainment.” But under our Constitution, folks like Stern and Imus have the right to say what they please. I will fight to protect that right. I’ll also fight to keep the Fairness Doctrine where it belongs- on the ash heap of history.

Liberal intolerance of the views of others was the basis for political correctness and is the basis for their attempts to silence conservatives on talk radio. The idea behind political correctness was that once liberals had decided an issue, no one would be permitted to disagree, or even bring up the subject again. It was settled. The idea behind the "fairness" doctrine is to permit liberals to shut down radio programs that dare to dispute liberal positions. It is simply the latest version of PC thought.


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