WANT EQUAL TIME ON CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO
By Jon Christian Ryter
June 28, 2007
In the early 1940s the New Deal administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed the Federal Communications Commission for a rule that would bar radio, and later, television news commentators from slanting the news by putting their own spin on it, believing that negative comments from reporters about the war in Europe and Asia might have a negative impact on the American people—and on the war effort. The ruling that became the Fairness Doctrine in 1967 was initially known as the "Mayflower Doctrine." It worked well for FDR. Antiwar activism was not allowed in World War II nor in the Korean War. It was not until the far left grabbed control of Congress during the Vietnam War that editorializing the news through political spin became commonplace. In 1969 the Mayflower Doctrine morphed into what became known has become known as the Fairness Doctrine based on the US Supreme Court decision, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v FCC.
Section 315 of the Communications Act of 1937 Mayflower Doctrine mandated balance. The Fairness Doctrine, interpreted by the Supreme Court during the Vietnam Era required TV and radio to provide equal time to opposition political candidates—providing they were legally-qualified, major party candidates. The rule evolved when radio evangelist Billy James Hargis, host of Christian Crusade, made derogatory remarks about an expose on Barry Goldwater, Goldwater: Extremist on the Right, that was written by Fred J. Cook. Cook demanded "equal time" to defend his book. Since the Christian Crusade paid for its air time, Red Lion Communications, which owned the station, refused Clark's demand for free time. Clark filed a complaint with the FCC which ruled that under the Mayflower Doctrine, Red Lion would have to provide Clark with equal time. Red Lion still refused and the case ended up in the US Supreme Court. The high court established what is now known as the Fairness Doctrine.
While the far left was ecstatic, most news journalists—even those who voted for leftwing candidates—were bothered that under the Fairness Doctrine, they would have to give a balanced presentation of the news, believing it was a violation of their 1st Amendment rights to have to also present the views of the right in their shaping of the news. On the other hand, the left does not see a free speech violation when the right is obligated to share their airtime with the left.
The FCC moderated its views under Reagan-appointee Mark Fowler. Fowler argued that the Fairness Doctrine had evolved into a tool of abuse by the far left during the Carter years and announced he planned to kill it. The Democrats, who controlled both Houses of Congress, had nevertheless lost favor with an American public that disagreed with Carter's military spinelessness and a warped diplomacy that surrendered the Panama Canal and weakened the United States throughout the western hemisphere.
After the Election of 1984—which was the most lopsided election in the 20th century—the Democrats were bankrupt. Hollywood funded a telethon to raise the money to pay of the party's election debts. The American center was tired of the communist agenda of the far left. Reagan Democrats, the working class bread-and-butter supporters of the Democratic Party closed their checkbooks —and the door—on the far left for 12 years.
In the spring of 1987 the Democratically-controlled Congress tried to legislate the Fairness Doctrine into law. Reagan vetoed it. This action led to the Meredith Corporation suing the FCC a few weeks later. The federal courts ruled that the Fairness Doctrine was not mandated by Congress and, therefore, the FCC did not have to enforce it. The FCC dissolves the doctrine in August, 1987. The liberals tried again in 1991. This time it was vetoed by George H.W. Bush. When the GOP gained control of Congress in 1994 the left could not muster the votes to get their Fair Doctrine measures out of committee.
In 2004 when MoveOn.org's 16-and 17-year old absentee ballot motor-voter voters elected a Democratic majority, there were enough votes to enact it, but not even to overturn a presidential veto. (Today, as badly as President George W. Bush wants his amnesty bill passed, I'm not sure he would veto the Democrat's latest Fair Doctrine legislation the is currently being resurrected by Congressional Representatives Dennis Kucinich [D-OH], Maurice Hinchey [D-NY], and Louse Slaughter [D-NY] and openly communist Senator Bernie Sanders [I-VT] after the financial implosion of Air America due to lack of interest from the American left, and the success of Fox News (viewed by the left as the conservative alternative to the Cable News Network). Air America was temporarily revived with a massive infusion of cash from by real estate tycoon Stephen Green.
Mark Green, president of Air America equated conservative talk radio to racism when he said, "If it was wrong and self-wounding for white baseball owners to refuse to hire black players in the 1940s...it's wrong today for a handful of mega-owners to refuse to provide diverse voices to the diverse communities who listen to radio." The liberals just don't get it. If the situation was reversed, Green would not be advocating that liberals share their airtime with conservatives, nor would Hinchley be proposing a piece of legislation that would deny licenses to radio station owners who did not practice diversity programing.
With Air America bankrupt and Ted Turner's Cable News Network and Headline News Network trailing Fox News like a blind bloodhound with a cold sniffing a year old scent, the liberals need Fox News to get their utopian message out to the TV viewing audience. The Fairness Doctrine, to the left, doesn't mean "balanced news," it means giving liberals equal time—without their sharing the small screen with Britt Hume, John Gibson or a testy Bill O'Reilly. What the left wants is giving programs—and content control—to leftists like Al Franken and Michael Moore that is paid for by the advertisers and the viewers of Fox News.
To justify the "need" to legislate a Fairness Doctrine that serves the left, the liberals needed to "prove" to the Democratically-controlled Congress that legislation was needed to correct the disparity—even though that 87% of all newspaper, radio and television reporters are leftwing. The argument of the left is, of course, if the American people aren't listening to the liberal earth stations, it doesn't really matter what the politics of the reporters and commentators are. In their recent report entitled "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio," the Center for American Progress concluded that 90% of all weekly talk radio is conservative, and only 10% is liberal. The liberals just don't get it. The thought has simply not registered in the minds of the left that, in a free enterprise system, ideological content determines—through free choice—what people listen to. In a free society, liberalspeak can't be mandated.
John Halpin, a senior fellow at the Center argued that "...[t]here is little free speech or free choice in a market system that pushes out one-sided information 90% of the time. Radio stations are licensed to operate in the public interest. Promoting one point of view over all others does not meet any reasonable public-interest standards."
Like everything else in our free enterprise society, competition determines what sells—and what doesn't sell. Communist liberalism doesn't sell in America. If 90% of the talk shows were liberal and 10% were conservative, the bulk of the radio listeners in this country would be listening to the 10% of the talk jocks, and the 90% would be looking for sponsors. Government can't mandate what radio programs or radio stations people listen to—even by reducing the number of popular programs in an attempt to force feed the public with liberal rhetoric they ideologically disagree with—although that is precisely what the left is attempting to do.
Jeff Lieberson, spokesman for Hinchey—one of those behind the current attempt to carve the Fairness Doctrine in stone through the Media Ownership Reform Act of 2007—said: "The American people should have a wide array of news sources available to them. The more opinions they can hear, the more news sources they can learn from, the better able they will be to make decisions." In reality, Hinchey, Sanders and the other liberals aren't looking for fairness in doctrine. They want to drown out the conservative viewpoint completely and force the American people to accept their utopian view of the world without dissent.
Once again, the liberals who argue they have no voice just don't get it. Apparently they haven't been listening to public radio or public TV lately—or understand that people listen to whatever radio stations they want to listen to, and watch whatever TV programs they want to see. The Public Broadcast System [PBS] and National Public Radio [NPR] are hardcore left. There is nothing aired on PBS or NPR that could reasonably be construed as "fair and balanced." Not only is it liberal, its financed by the taxpayers—most of whom do not identify themselves as liberal.
Senator Jim Inhofe [R-OK] overheard Senators Barbara Boxer and her liberal-in-law-by-marriage Hillary Clinton advocating Fairness Doctrine legislative fix to solve the air time inequity before the Election of 2004 (even though he told an LA talk jock it happened "a few days ago.") The feminist Senators insist the conversation, which took place on an elevator in the Senate building, never took place at all. Because the two "lady" senators were angry over something they had heard on talk radio at the time, they barely noticed Inhofe, or choose to ignore him, standing behind them on the elevator until he spoke. Either Boxer or Clinton (he couldn't remember which) said, "...all these radio talk shows [and] they're all for right wing extremists. There ought to be a legislative fix to this." Inhofe, who was apparently enjoying their frustration, chimed, "You girls don't understand. Talk radio is market-driven. There's no market for your liberal tripe."
The 40-page report from the liberal advocacy group, Center for American Progress that will be used by the left to "justify" the need for legislation that threatens radio station chains with license revocation may be linguistically correct for the most part, but it is also factually misleading because not taken into consideration in this equation of logic is free will. By eliminating free will from the formula we are incorrectly led to believe that people have not had a chance to consider the liberal's perspective when, in reality, they simply repudiated their utopian views. As Inhofe noted, talk radio is governed by free will. People listen to what they want to listen to; and can't be bullied into listening to rhetoric with which they disagree—vehemently at times. What the left would like to do is force feed conservative and moderate America a steady, daily doze of liberalism by enacting a law that would obligate conservative radio and TV talk jocks to add mirror image shock jocks to present the opposition's view, and cramming that view down the throats of the conservative audiences until conservative talk radio no longer exists. The idea, after all, isn't to share their market, it's to destroy their market. It's the "if-I-can't-have-your-audience, you-can't-have-it-either" syndrome. And, that, of isn't right. According to Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine, it isn't constitutional. But, when did the left let that stop them?
Harrison argues that having the FCC employ speech police to monitor whether conservative talk radio stations have balanced their air time between the right and the left—with the right actually footing the bill since liberal talk radio can't carry its own freight—is, in itself, unconstitutional since it denies free speech, or greatly abridges it. Who decides what's fair when audiences turn off liberal talk radio and tunes into conservative talk radio? The defunct liberal Air America failed only because the audience the network targets wasn't interested enough in their message to listen. Nor was the liberal audience dedicated enough to the far left antiwar, environment, pro-abortion, antifamily causes to write checks.
So, does the liberal government bureaucracy have the right to force conservative entertainment radio talk jocks to host those with opposing political views because the listening audience won't tune in to their shows? That is, after all, the essence of what's about to happen. Sadly, not everyone trying to shut down conservative talk radio are liberals. Several GOP Congressmen and Senators who have tied their little red wagons to the President's fading start are feeling the heat generated by conservative talk jocks and bloggers. One of them, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott [R-MS] recently complained that talk radio is running the country.
Chris Berry, general manager of DC conservative Talk Radio WMAL-AM wondered how you enforce a fairness doctrine on a media company whose shareholders expect it to entertain—and grow—both its audience and its revenue base? "My question is," Berry asked: "Who decides what's fair? To have someone who, in some way, is policing the airwaves like this violates the very tenets of the 1st Amendment. And that, by the way, is why the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987. It violated the 1st Amendment in 1987. And, it still does today. The simple reality that the left can't seem to grasp is that America is a family values, patriotic-centered country that believes in God, heterosexual marriage—and sealing its border and keeping its nose out of the problems of its globalist neighbors. That's why the American people—even those left of center—don't want to listen to the anti-American prattle spewed from the mouths of the left like so much garbage on trash day.
left is not interested in balance. What the left wants is to silence
© 2007 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights
[Read "Whatever Happened to America?"]
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.
So, does the liberal government bureaucracy have the right to force conservative entertainment radio talk jocks to host those with opposing political views because the listening audience won't tune in to their shows?