I ask my liberal acquaintances if they’re aware that the Democrats plan to muzzle conservative opinion in this country, by reinstating the “Fairness” Doctrine.
Leave aside for a moment that most people of all political stripes have not the faintest clue how the “Fairness” Doctrine worked during its heyday (until Reagan repealed it in 1987), to say nothing of how it would work in the future; the current party line on the left is “Barack Obama doesn’t favor restoring the Fairness Doctrine!”. I’ve heard it from no less than three different local lefties in the past 36 hours.
It’s true, sort of – in the same sense that “George Bush didn’t support McCain/Feingold”. He didn’t. Until Congress made it clear that they did, and he opted not to expend any political capital opposing it.
Because the threat isn’t Obama himself; it’s a Congressional Democrat caucus that’s already thoroughly committed to re-instating the Doctrine, combined with a President that, at best, is going to expend no political capital opposing a Democrat-controlled Congress on the issue.
Brian C. Anderson at the NYPost analyzes the reality:
SHOULD Barack Obama win the presidency and Democrats take full control of Congress, next year will see a real legislative attempt to bring back the Fairness Doctrine – and to diminish conservatives’ influence on broadcast radio, the one medium they dominate.
Yes, the Obama campaign said some months back that the candidate doesn’t seek to re-impose this regulation, which, until Ronald Reagan’s FCC phased it out in the 1980s, required TV and radio broadcasters to give balanced airtime to opposing viewpoints or face steep fines or even loss of license. But most Democrats – including party elders Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Al Gore – strongly support the idea of mandating “fairness.”
Would a President Obama veto a new Fairness Doctrine if Congress enacted one? It’s doubtful.
The Democrats – and their RINOid supporters on the right, the thin film of Republicans who also support them on the Doctrine – paint a rosy picture to each other and the people about what a “Fairness” Doctrine means to free speech in this country.
Anderson has the ugly truth:
The Fairness Doctrine was an astonishingly bad idea. It’s a too-tempting power for government to abuse. When the doctrine was in effect, both Democratic and Republican administrations regularly used it to harass critics on radio and TV.
Most people have at least an idea – however vague and propaganda-driven – of the “what” of the Doctrine. Few on either side know of the “how”:
Second, a new Fairness Doctrine would drive political talk radio off the dial. If a station ran a big-audience conservative program like, say, Laura Ingraham’s, it would also have to run a left-leaning alternative. But liberals don’t do well on talk radio, as the failure of Air America and indeed all other liberal efforts in the medium to date show. Stations would likely trim back conservative shows so as to avoid airing unsuccessful liberal ones.
Then there’s all the lawyers you’d have to hire to respond to the regulators measuring how much time you devoted to this topic or that. Too much risk and hassle, many radio executives would conclude. Why not switch formats to something less charged – like entertainment or sports coverage?
That, indeed, is exactly what talk radio was before 1987 (except at those very rare stations that could support political hosts on both sides of the aisle – and by “support”, I mean even putting a 25 year old kid on weekend graveyards to talk conservative politics); at all but the stations that could afford to commit to it, the subject was avoided.
Anderson catches what is by far the most chilling facet of this story; the Orwellian hijacking of the language that the left will need to do to make this go down the American throat:
For those who dismiss this threat to freedom of the airwaves as unlikely, consider how the politics of “fairness” might play out with the public. A Rasmussen poll last summer found that fully 47 percent of respondents backed the idea of requiring radio and television stations to offer “equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary,” with 39 percent opposed.
Liberals, Rasmussen found, support a Fairness Doctrine by 54 percent to 26 percent, while Republicans and unaffiliated voters were more evenly divided. The language of “fairness” is seductive.
Who wouldn’t support being “Fair”, after all?
Of course, it’s ludicrous; there is no shortage of left-leaning points of view in any medium, other than terrestrial radio (and the left has had ample chances to try to stake out a piece of that turf). It dominates the print medium, broadcast TV, cable news (save Fox), public TV and radio…every medium save AM radio and the blogs.
Anderson notes, correctly, that the “Fairness” Doctrine is only one of the bureaucratic chicanes – albeit the marquee effort – the left is going to attempt:
[Obama] and most Democrats want to expand broadcasters’ public-interest duties. One such measure would be to impose greater “local accountability” on them – requiring stations to carry more local programming whether the public wants it or not.
And on the surface, this looks like a good thing – after all, my program is local. Gotta be a good thing, right?
Well, not so much. The public votes with its feet; and while everyone pays lip service to the benefit of local radio, the market still rewards quality – and for better or worse, the best quality is usually syndicated. And that syndicated programming – everyone from Limbaugh on down – is rewarded with excellent numbers and tons of money.
The left wants to kill this status quo with a thousand bureaucratic paper cuts:
The reform would entail setting up community boards to make their demands known when station licenses come up for renewal. The measure is clearly aimed at national syndicators like Clear Channel that offer conservative shows. It’s a Fairness Doctrine by subterfuge.
Obama also wants to relicense stations every two years (not eight, as is the case now), so these monitors would be a constant worry for stations. Finally, the Democrats also want more minority-owned stations and plan to intervene in the radio marketplace to ensure that outcome.
Read the whole thing. Become informed. Because you never know when some mindless lefty parrot is going to greet the debate with “Obama opposes the Fairness Doctrine”, and assume that’s that.