Son of The Fairness Doctrine

Don’t be fooled by President Obama’s purported renunciation of the Fairness Doctrine last week.  The far left fully intends to use a new regulatory scheme, the Son of The Fairness Doctrine, to regulate conservative talk radio.  As Erick Erickson wrote last week on Red State, “Congress will restrict how many stations a company can own in a market. They’ll also require advisory boards for each station and make it easier to address consumer complaints against stations.”  Although the left has backed away from the Fairness Doctrine because it is ineffective, they are gathering support for an attack on conservative talk radio.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told FOXNews.com that “As the President stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated.”  Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) said to The Washington Times, “I’m glad President Obama finally confirmed his opposition to the Fairness Doctrine … but many Democrats in Congress are still pushing it.  With the support of the new administration, now is the time for Congress to take a stand against this kind of censorship.”

The Center for American Progress has discussed the problem in detail in their paper titled “The Structural Imbalance of Talk Radio” where they argue:

Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.

A more detailed explanation is that the Center for American Progress blames “two primary explanations typically put forth to explain the disparities between conservative and progressive talk radio programming:

  1. The “repeal” of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 gave station owners and hosts free reign to fill their programming with ideologically conservative content.
  2. The demands of the marketplace favor conservative shows and audiences over progressive ones.

In short lefties are very upset that so called “progressive” radio is not getting enough airplay and that the American listeners are bored with left wing talk radio.  The solution is to heavily regulate talk radio to force feed liberal viewpoints on the American people. 

The Center for American Progress’s new regulatory scheme could be termed “The Son of the Fairness Doctrine,” because the goal of this new proposal is the same as the Fairness Doctrine — to regulate conservative talk radio to force unpopular far left viewpoints on America listeners and can be explained as follows: 

  1. Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations.  National radio ownership by any one entity should not exceed 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM broadcast stations and for local ownership, no one entity should control more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market.  This would be a direct attack on nationally syndicated conservative talk radio hosts that broadcast on a network of radio stations; 
  2. Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing.  This would be done by requiring “radio broadcast licensees to regularly show that they are operating on behalf of the public interest and provide public documentation and viewing of how they are meeting these obligations;” and,
  3. Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee (i.e. tax) to support public broadcasting.  If the local accountability rule is violated, then the FCC would be empowered to tax “owners to directly support local, regional, and national public broadcasting.”  The tax revenues would go to the “Corporation for Public Broadcasting with clear mandates to support local news and public affairs programming and to cover controversial and political issues in a fair and balanced manner.”  The Center for American Progress hopes for enough fines to “net between $100 million and $250 million” to pay for new left wing government sponsored programming.

Who are the targets of the left.  The Center for American Progress mapped out the networks to be targeted:

  • CBS – 74% Conservative – 25% “Progressive”
  • Clear Channel – 86% Conservative – 14% “Progressive”
  • Citadel – 100% Conservative
  • Cumulus – 100% Conservative
  • Salem – 100% Conservative

Rush Limbaugh penned a letter to President Obama and asked

I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as “local content,” “diversity of ownership,” and “public interest” rules — all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?

The Center for American Progress blog, Think Progress, responded with the following: 

We have a straightforward question, which we hope you will answer in a straightforward way: When a handful of major media companies control who and what is allowed to be broadcast on the commercial dial, how is that not regulation of radio content?  When these same companies then push out one-sided, right-wing information 90 percent of the time, how does that uphold freedom of expression?

So Rush asked President Obama if he plans to regulate talk radio and President Obama’s think tank responded by saying that privately owned media companies should not be allowed to “regulate” radio content.  The Center for American Progress explicitly endorses a regulatory scheme that empowers the government’s regulation of Rush Limbaugh by taxing companies that don’t balance out Rush’s conservative viewpoints.  Do they not understand that government mandated speech is a violation of the First Amendment right to be free from government mandated viewpoints?  Watch out for the Son of the Fairness Doctrine coming to a radio station near you.