I’ve been interested lately in this story about the Fairness Doctrine. Some Democratic senators want to open up debate on reintroducing this back for radio. For those of you unfamiliar with the doctrine, very basically it’s this: If a radio station broadcasts a controversial topic, it has to give fair and equal time and treatment for both sides of the argument. Although the Fairness Doctrine used to be in effect, the FCC pretty much scrapped it.
It’s plain to see that the revival of the doctrine is to counter conservative talk radio. Conservatives dominate the AM airwaves with talk radio. The two biggest commentators are Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. And with an audience of over 20 million for Rush alone, you can see that talk radio reaches and influences a significant part of the electorate. A bit worrying when you are on the left. Now, I’m not questioning the legality of the Fairness Doctrine. What I do question is why does the left feel the need to bring it up?
Fairness Doctrine supporters such as Dennis Kucinich argue that the public airwaves are subject to regulation because it is a finite resource. The aim of the doctrine is to make sure that the public gets their information in a well-rounded manner. The intentions sound noble but considering that most people have other sources of information, it is not as if radio, by having conservative content, is limiting their ability to obtain another perspective. And we should note that no other form of communication (print, television, or internet) is going to have the Fairness Doctrine apply to them—only radio.
What bothers me about this is that libs are getting bent out of shape over nothing. They are not suffering under censorship. A liberal can call Rush’s show and make an argument. Rush even jokes that liberals who want to take him on will get bumped ahead of the line. More importantly though, it’s not as if liberals can’t make up their own radio shows. They have. Air America anyone? The problem is that they can’t make it on the radio. In the free market, they can’t attract listeners. That’s not the fault of conservatives and they shouldn’t be made to accommodate for liberal failures by forcing them to cut their shows in half to get in the other view.
Then there is the economic view to this. I listen to WLS out of Chicago all the time. Their talk show line up is, frankly, conservative. You have Jerry Agar in the morning, Rush Limbaugh in the early afternoon, and Roe Conn for the drive home. Now if the Fairness Doctrine comes along, this station is going to have to cut their programming in half. If they did that, people like me aren’t going to be sticking around to listen to Air America type airheads. So there goes their audience and the advertising revenue. So then why would WLS want to keep Rush if they have to bring in an audience killer due to government bureaucracy? They might find it more profitable if they dump Rush and stick with non-controversial programming.
Hmm, radio stations cutting their conservative speakers. Sounds like something someone like Dennis Kucinich wouldn’t mind.