Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Should radio hosts be fair? Liberals are pushing for this, but they're not, really. All they want is THEIR agenda on the airwaves. They're convinced that conservative voices drown out the liberal ones and they want YOUR government to do something. In fact, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is leading the effort. Stabenow says there is a "structural imbalance" on political talk radio. She wonders why so many radio stations, like New York's WABC have nothing but conservative shows on the air. She wants balance. The senator is even prepared to hold hearings (and waste your money) in Washington to get to the bottom of this conundrum. Stabenow believes radio station owners need to be held accountable. What, send them to Guantanamo Bay?

Ms. Stabenow is somehow convinced that conservative radio brainwashes naive Americans into doing anti-liberal things. Wow, that really worked during the November elections, didn't it. All that power, all that influence. The conservative talkers couldn't even get a good conservative to run against Barack Obama. All of this hearkens back to the "Fairness Doctrine," conceived in 1949 and rarely enforced. It, however, DID NOT require radio and t.v. stations to balance their programming. For instance, there was no need to have Rush Limbaugh, followed by Abbie Hoffman, followed by Sean Hannity, followed by Al Franken. It simply demanded that broadcasters set aside an unspecified amount of time to present a forum for balanced, public service programming. This is why so many radio stations had Sunday talk shows and religious programming.

The "Fairness Doctrine" should not be confused with the F.C.C's equal time rule, which required broadcasters to air opposing viewpoints of political candidates when another is presented. This applied mainly to commercials. Owners couldn't prohibit an opponent from airing a commercial, as long as both opponents paid the same rate as their "most favored advertiser." Talk shows, on-air interviews, breaking news and newscasts in general were exempt from these rules. Also, keep in mind, this only applied to election time and balance was not required of seated public officials.

Now, here's the rub. What the fine Senator from Michigan is proposing would go well beyond both the "Fairness Doctrine" and the "Equal-time rule." She's looking for balance on day-to-day programming. She's suggesting that even if Rush Limbaugh has no guests, any opinions espoused by the conservative talker should be balanced by a guest or host with another viewpoint. I'm a big proponent of free speech and that's why any attempt to stifle public opinion should be vigorously opposed. Should anti-abortion protesters have to wait outside an abortion clinic until a suitable pro-choice group is found to stand next to them. Should the government go into public libraries and remove books that outnumber those with some sort of opposing viewpoint.

Listen, radio and t.v. stations put hosts on the air that are entertaining and more importantly, who can generate ratings and thus revenue. The fact of the matter is, there are more entertaining conservatives on the air and those that tend to listen to political talk radio lean toward the right. I'm not quite sure where liberals get most of their news, perhaps newspapers and the Internet.

Now, back to Senator Stabenow. Why has she emerged as the ringmaster for this anti-free speech circus? Stabenow is married to Tom Athans, co-founder and former CEO of the far-left leaning Democracy Radio. Three years after founding the network and putting the liberal voices of Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller on the air, Athans shuttered Democracy Radio and joined Air America and it's fledgling operation. Athans started Democracy Radio in hopes to lobbying radio stations to air more liberal voices, but obviously when that didn't take off, he turned to his Senator-wife. He's probably thinking, if radio stations won't take my liberal shows, then I'll get my wife to draft new legislation forcing them to air the programs. Scary, huh?

1 comment:

  1. George,
    I'm not necessarily in favor of the Fairness Doctrine or the Equal Time provision, however your post excludes one critically important detail. WE OWN THE AIRWAVES! The public owns each of these frequencies, and they have to serve the public interest. If corporations want complete editorial control over their product, they should start a newspaper or a website, but once you go on broadcast TV or Radio, you have to serve the public. To have a debate on how these companies can best serve the public is in my view not such a bad thing and certainly not a waste of taxpayer money. Let's have an open discussion about it and let constituents on both sides of the issue tell their Senators and the FCC how they want their airwaves used. Otherwise, companies like Air America, who seek to drown out alternative voices can stick to the internet, satellite radio or cable. These are our airwaves. Let's make sure the companies that are making a mint on them understand that and start acting like it.


Got something to say.....say it now. Please be advised if your comment is crude, mean spirited or otherwize obscene or libelous, you won't see it. Otherwize, fire away and thanks for reading. George