Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Right-Wing is Apoplectic About Radio Re-Regulation

Two weeks ago the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank and Free Press, a media reform group, issued a report called "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio" confirming what we already knew – that conservative talk dominates political talk radio.

Since then, after the bi-partisan Immigration Bill went down to defeat in the Senate, several Senators attributed part of blame to right-wing talk radio and hinted that it may be time to consider the re-enactment of the Fairness Doctrine.

Ironically, this cabal of Senators included two Republicans:

Trent Lott (R-MS) told the New York Times on June 19th that "talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem," and George Voinovich (R-OH) said this about the Fairness Doctrine on Sean Hannity’s talk radio show.

"The Fairness Doctrine – I'm all for it, whatever it is. I think everyone should be open to show the other side. That's what you do every night on Fox. That's great!"

Then he hung up on Hannity

But it was comments by three leading Democrats that made the right-wing apoplectic.

First, Diane Feinstein (D-CA), when pressed by Chris Wallace of Fox Noise said, "talk radio tends to be one-sided. It also tends to be dwelling in hyperbole. It's explosive. It pushes people to, I think, extreme views without a lot of information."

Feinstein went on to say that she was reviewing the Fairness Doctrine because "talk radio is overwhelmingly one way."

Then Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told The Hill, a political journal, "It’s time to re-institute the Fairness Doctrine."

"I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision," Durban said.

Finally, one of the right-wing's least favorite Democratic Senators, John Kerry (D-MA) weighed in.

Kerry said he thought the doctrine should return. Calling it one of the "most profound changes in the balance of the media." He said "conservatives have been able to "squeeze down and squeeze out opinion of opposing views. I think it has been a very important transition in the imbalance of our public dialog."

Now the right-wing is fighting back. Fearful that the virtual monopoly that they enjoy on talk radio is being challenged, they have put together a fierce counter-attack.

First, they devoted considerable time on Fox Noise to the subject. The same Fox Noise that devotes less than 10% of its time to coverage of the war in Iraq found lots of time to cover the Fairness Doctrine flap.

In addition to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, it was a hot topic on Hannity and Colmes and the O’Reilly Factor.

The right wing blogosphere was inundated with posts about the liberal attacks on conservative talk radio. They compared the rumored return of Fairness Doctrine to the re-emergence of Communism. For a sampling of some of the hyperbole you can look here, here, and here.

Of course, it was also a hot topic on conservative talk radio. Rush blamed it on a campaign by "Stalinist-type people."

"These are people who are openly saying we are going to use the power of the federal government to silence you," Rush said "High government officials are trying to stifle speech, and it's not the first time."

Next to bashing the Immigration Bill, discussion about the Fairness Doctrine and liberal efforts to undermine the talk radio format have been the hottest topics on right-wing talk radio over the past two weeks.

But the highlight of their counter-attack occurred in the House of Representatives when Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) attached an amendment to a spending bill that would prevented any future president or the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

Legislation similar to that proposed by Pence, (not surprisingly a former talk show host) is now being offered in the Senate.

The Democrats were not too concerned about Pence’s bill. If an effort to re-enact the Fairness Doctrine or stiffen radio regulations takes place, it won’t come unless a Democratic President is elected in 2008.

If that occurs, we would expect a Democratic led FCC to follow the recommendations of the CAP/FP report. The report does not call for re-enactment of the Fairness Doctrine, but rather revised ownership caps and tighter licensing requirements for radio stations owners. In an effort to moderate an FCC led by Democrats, the radio industry will magically find ways to offer more balance in scheduling political talk radio.

7 comments:

Thomas Gagne said...

I'm curious what you found in my article that was hyperbole. My article had more to do with capitalism than communism, and that the fairness doctrine, as democrats have described it, proscribes liberal commentary as an antidote to conservative talk radio rather than equal exposure to any of America's other political parties.

barooosk said...

I'm curious what you found in my article that was hyperbole.

Following is the definition of "hyperbole"

Obvious and intentional exaggeration

Your blog contains this item

Liberals' idea of fairness has to do with force-feeding more liberal doctrine on radio audiences than listeners have otherwise tuned-in to. But if they really wanted to be fair, as the doctrine's name suggests, why wouldn't they insist on equal time for socialists and libertarians as they demand for Democrats? What about the Green Party, Communist Party, or Worker's Party?

Currently, there are ten hours of conservative talk for every one hour of liberal talk on talk radio. Without getting into the tedious arguments about why this imbalance exists, I think most reasonable people would be troubled by this. This is why some observers have suggested that the radio industry should be re-regulated. (Remember it was a very regulated industry for 70 years until the Telecommunications Act of 1996.) Your suggestion that in order to correct this imbalance "we need to provide time for Green Party, Communist Party, or Workers Party" is disingenuous and an example of hyperbole

Thomas Gagne said...

But should people be similarly discomforted that Coke outsells Faygo 10-to-1? Of course not! Radio markets are a commercial enterprise. In the US there remains enough capitalism that the market is still susceptible to supply and demand.

Or is there something special about political speech, rather than pop music, that the government should regulate it such that non-commercially-successful radio talk should be given more airtime than it can win on its own?

barooosk said...

But should people be similarly discomforted that Coke outsells Faygo 10-to-1? Of course not! Radio markets are a commercial enterprise. In the US there remains enough capitalism that the market is still susceptible to supply and demand.

Or is there something special about political speech, rather than pop music, that the government should regulate it such that non-commercially-successful radio talk should be given more airtime than it can win on its own?


First, you comparison between regulating broadcasting, which is an established principle, and softdrinks is absurd. Broadcasting bandwidth is finite and limited. It is also owned by the people and just licensed to station owners. Even in the deregulatory environment of today there are still lots of regulations in place. e.g.Republicans in Congress have been pushing to increase indecency fines and this will be voted on soon.

There are significant differences between political speech and music. That's why political speech is more highly regulated than music. Although the FD was removed 20 years ago, there are still equal time provisions in effect. These of course do not apply to music. Also, several court decision are still in effect granting the FCC with the authority to regulate political speech is they see the need to.

Anonymous said...

If big-city corporate-owned radio stations didn't choose to play songs that are played on other corporate-owned radio stations in the same big city, maybe there would be more liberal talk radio in this country.

gregrocker said...

Many people don’t know where all of the nastiness and falsity in our politics came from. I know. I have been listening to right wing hate radio for 18 years, during which time rightist tricksters were allowed to lie without challenge 24/7 on most every major talk radio station in the country, took over and wrecked the Federal government.


For a dozen of those years, the prestigious Annenberg School for Communication at Penn - funded by the conservo TV Guide fortune - studied talk radio and discovered that between 20-50 million listeners had been duped with utter “false certainty” on almost every issue, swinging the past 5 of 6 elections. People simply can’t believe that the radio would be allowed to lie to them so baldly, the very definition of the Big Lie theory.


The solution may not be the Fairness Doctrine, but it is revealing to see the rightist tricksters squeal like stuck pigs over “fairness.” They know this has enabled them to tip the balance of power in the U.S. Perhaps better would be for the Dem Congress FOR ITS OWN SURVIVAL to hold high profile hearings exposing how all of this happened. Have Kathleen Hall Jameson of Annenberg detail the research showing how truth itself was devalued out of our system. Shine a bright light on the ownership which has allowed this to happen, blocking out even the highest rated progressive talkers from major stations while blacklisting tiny struggling Air America, whose three outlets in Ohio were credited with helping win the November election there before Clear Channel shut them down on false pretenses.


Half of America never listens. Educate them as to how their politics turned so nasty and false. It happened on the radio.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that the conservative viewpoint dominates talk radio, but this is not reflective of a monopoly, simply a free market.

If proponents if radio re-regulation were truly interested in fairness, then the barrel of the regulatory gun would be pointed at ALL forms of media.