Sunday, July 06, 2008
The "Fairness" Doctrine
I had planned a longer post on the subject of reinstating the misnamed "Fairness Doctrine," but it's been a busy weekend for me (much delayed yardwork etc). I also note that talk radio and blogs have been buzzing on this subject for days, so there doesn't seem to be much for me to add. However, I'll make a brief comment just so I am on the record. In opposition.
My largely dormant broadcast career (with the exception of one weekly talk show) goes back to the days when the Fairness Doctrine (FD) was still in force courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission. In case you don't know what it is, the FD was a requirement for broadcast stations -- should they broadcast editorials or commentaries -- to give equal time to any opposing viewpoints. While most stations did give a good faith effort to allow rebuttals, in time what was supposed to ensure free speech and airing of multiple views ended up doing exactly the opposite. Instead of having to give an open mic to every crackpot out there, many broadcast stations simply stopped airing editorials and commentaries. They stopped airing anything politically controversial.
Finally, the FCC did away with it in the 1980s, and President Reagan finally helped give the FD the coup de grace. In the years since then, talk radio exploded, especially conservative talk radio. The voices that were in essence ignored or squelched by the liberal-leaning media finally were able to be heard. Then, an interesting thing happened. The free market determined things as it almost always does. Conservative programming skyrocketed in popularity.
Liberals tried and tried to come up with their version of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talkers. They even tried their own network called "Air America." Without fail, the liberal shows either tanked miserably or didn't come anywhere near the ratings of their conservative counterparts.
Frustrated, the left is now doing what it always does when society (or the free market) rejects their views. They try to impose themselves by force, primarily through judicial or legislative fiat. "Bring back the FD," they shriek. "We must have 'fairness.' All views must be heard, especially ours, to counter those evil conservatives." Legislation has indeed been introduced to bring the FD back. If they succeed, get ready for free speech to be chilled below zero.
You see, despite the frothing of the left, the current system -- called the marketplace of ideas -- is fair. Really. Liberal talkers and stations can complete on a level playing field like everyone else. But they have to face a hard reality. If no one likes their programming, they have no one to blame but themselves. Bad programming fails. It gets cancelled. It loses advertisers. It turns off listeners or bores them to tears. In the case of liberal talk networks like Air America, they only survive when wealthy socialist bogeymen like the abominable George Soros bankroll it.
But the FD stands a real chance of being reinstated, especially if Barack H. Obama wins election to the presidency. Like good liberals, they're going to force their ideas down your throat whether you like it or not. And they'll do all they can to ensure that there is no dissent.
Is that what the country really wants?