Can’t shut ’em up with reason, or in the marketplace?
The speaker of the House made it clear to me and more than forty of my colleagues yesterday that a bill by Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) to outlaw the “Fairness Doctrine” (which a liberal administration could use to silence Rush Limbaugh, other radio talk show hosts and much of the new alternative media) would not see the light of day in Congress during ’08. In ruling out a vote on Pence’s proposed Broadcaster’s Freedom Act, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-CA.) also signaled her strong support for revival of the “Fairness Doctrine” — which would require radio station owners to provide equal time to radio commentary when it is requested.
And that? That was the good news!
“Do you personally support revival of the ‘Fairness Doctrine?’” I asked.
“Yes,” the speaker replied, without hesitation
Let’s dispense with a myth here: “The Fairness Doctrine” is about making the public airwaves public again”: Oh, goody. Then we’ll also bring federal sanctions against the imbalances in the print media? Academia (especially public academia)?
It’s a simple lie:
Experts say that the “Fairness Doctrine,” which was ended under the Reagan Administration, would put a major burden on small radio stations in providing equal time to Rush Limbaugh and other conservative broadcasters, who are a potent political force. Rather than engage in the costly practice of providing that time, the experts conclude, many stations would simply not carry Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other talk show hosts who are likely to generate demands for equal time.
Let’s remember a couple of things:
- Limbaugh, Hannity, Hewitt, Ingraham, Medved, Bennett and Savage are free to radio stations. No radio station pays a nickel to carry their programs.
- If they are forced by law to “balance” the likes of Limbaugh and company, most stations will do what they did before 1987: punt. They’ll avoid politics altogether; they’ll broadcast the bland teleshrink or blander, crypto-liberal MPR-Lite pap like Owen Span and Larry King. Or they’ll pick up on the biggest trend in talk radio in 1985-86 – “Brokered Talk”, selling airtime to real estate agents and investment advisors and nutrition supplement dealers. That’s the way talk was headed up until the Fairness Doctrine was repealed.
- Or they can look for successful free “liberal” talk to fill out their requirements under the Fairness Doctrine.Um, yeah. Good luck with that.
This is a coup against the First Amendment. There is no other explanation.
(Which isn’t to say that I don’t want my left-of-center readers to try to provide one. Expect a spirited response).