A dec­la­ra­tion of war against talk ra­dio

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - David Lim­baugh

Beware of lib­er­als us­ing such words as “fair­ness.” In res­ur­rect­ing the “Fair­ness Doc­trine,” lib­er­als are try­ing to kill con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio and re­store their me­dia mo­nop­oly. Pe­riod. The doc­trine would se­lec­tively sti­fle free po­lit­i­cal dis­course, which is es­sen­tial for our rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment.

The Fair­ness Doc­trine, an FCC reg­u­la­tion in force from 1949 to 1987, re­quired broad­cast­ers to present “both sides” of con­tro­ver­sial is­sues. Dur­ing that time, lib­er­als had a vir­tual mo­nop­oly on the me­dia.

Since the rule was re­pealed, con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio has ex­ploded — Rush Lim­baugh launched his syn­di­cated ra­dio show in 1988 — and other me­dia out­lets mul­ti­plied: the In­ter­net, in­clud­ing blogs, cable and satel­lite TV and satel­lite ra­dio, among oth­ers. The con­ser­va­tive view­point has fared quite well in the new me­dia.

This is not to say that the gov­ern­ment’s elim­i­na­tion of the reg­u­la­tion dis­crim­i­nated against the lib­eral mes­sage. The lib­eral view­point still dom­i­nates the main­stream me­dia, cable TV, ex­cept for Fox News, and the over­whelm­ing num­ber of ma­jor print me­dia out­lets. Lib­er­als also have equal ac­cess to new me­dia out­lets, though they’ve had enor­mous dif­fi­culty com­pet­ing in the mar­ket­place of ideas.

It’s in­struc­tive to re­mem­ber that while con­ser­va­tives grew hoarse com­plain­ing about the mono­lithic lib­eral mes­sage, they didn’t ad­vo­cate sup­pres­sion of lib­eral speech. Their rem­edy, in­sti­tuted — fit- tingly — in the Rea­gan years, was to open up, not con­strict or reg­u­late the me­dia mar­ket.

The re­sults have been dra­matic, with con­ser­va­tives fi­nally hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant voice in the me­dia, al­beit mostly in the new me­dia, though a sin­gu­lar lib­eral mes­sage still pre­vails in the old me­dia, not to men­tion pub­lic broad­cast­ing.

Lib­er­als can’t stand the com­pe­ti­tion. Demo­cratic Con­gress­man Mau­rice Hinchey is spon­sor­ing the “Me­dia Own­er­ship Re­form Act,” whose pro­posed re­forms in­clude the re­in­state­ment of the Fair­ness Doc­trine. Mr. Hinchey de­nies want­ing to muz­zle con­ser­va­tive hosts. But, “This will en­sure that dif­fer­ent views [. . .] will also be heard. [. . .] Peo­ple are be­ing pre­vented from get­ting the right in­for­ma­tion.” Re­ally? Latest polls show 60 per­cent of Amer­i­cans are op­posed to the Iraq war. Will Mr. Hinchey not be sat­is­fied un­til it’s 90 per­cent?

This is noth­ing but ab­ject sophistry. Dif­fer­ent views are al­ready heard — and not just in the main­stream me­dia. There have never been more me­dia choices. Noth­ing — ex­cept con­sumer re­sis­tance — pre­cludes lib­eral en­try into the talk ra­dio mar­ket. But the First Amend­ment doesn’t re­quire peo­ple to lis­ten to and sup­port your mes­sage.

Lib­er­als had no in­ter­est in bal­ance be­fore the ad­vent of con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio. They don’t have any in­ter­est in bal­ance now; in­deed we’re fi­nally ap­proach­ing a bal­ance: new me­dia ver­sus old me­dia. But to them “bal­ance” means dom­i­nance, just like “bi­par­ti­san­ship” means Repub­li­can ca­pit­u­la­tion.

With the Fair­ness Doc­trine lib­er­als would use gov­ern­ment to mi­cro­man­age the con­tent of talk ra­dio, re­al­iz­ing that they sim­ply can’t com­pete on an equal play­ing field in that medium. No­tably, they aren’t ad­vo­cat­ing bal­anc­ing the mes­sages of the ma­jor print or broad­cast me­dia gi­ants.

The rea­son lib­er­als can’t com­pete in talk ra­dio, be­sides their hosts be­ing bor­ing, op­pres­sively cyn­i­cal and pes­simistic, is that their would-be au­di­ence is al­ready fed through the main­stream me­dia.

Con­versely, con­ser­va­tive talk has been suc­cess­ful, not just be­cause it is more en­ter­tain­ing, pro­fes­sional and op­ti­mistic, but be­cause con­ser­va­tive au­di­ences were starved for a like­minded mes­sage.

The lib­er­als’ goal is not bal­ance, but to de­stroy con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio by re­quir­ing that each nanoseg­ment of ev­ery show con­tain the coun­ter­bal­anc­ing lib­eral view­point, in­stead of re­ly­ing on other shows or other me­dia to de­liver that view­point. What will they de­mand next: that po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates present both sides of ev­ery is­sue to en­sure bal­ance?

Such dra­co­nian hy­per-mon­i­tor- ing would de­stroy those pro­grams. Be­sides, there is no fair, sen­si­ble or prac­ti­ca­ble way to reg­u­late con­tent. Ob­jec­tiv­ity is im­pos­si­ble over such sub­jec­tive mat­ters.

What do the pa­ter­nal­is­tic pro­po­nents of the reg­u­la­tions mean by the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of “all sides?” Would the ter­ror­ist view­point de­serve equal time? Don’t laugh. Many be­lieve that one man’s ter­ror­ist is an­other man’s free­dom fighter, and lib­er­als rou­tinely sym­pa­thize with tyran­ni­cal dic­ta­tors like Fidel Cas­tro and Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad.

What is truly scary is that lib­er­als be­lieve that me­dia out­lets pre­dom­i­nately pre­sent­ing their view­point are not bi­ased. To them, the lib­eral view­point is ob­jec­tively cor­rect — the only proper way to view the world — and the con­ser­va­tive one, aber­rant and re­al­ity-chal­lenged, not even de­serv­ing of First Amend­ment pro­tec­tion. Per­haps a slight ex­ag­ger­a­tion, but not much.

This ar­ro­gant mind­set is what has trou­bled con­ser­va­tives for years. It’s not just that the main­stream me­dia has pre­sented a mono­lithic lib­eral mes­sage; it’s that they de­nied their bias and pur­ported to be com­pletely ob­jec­tive in their se­lec­tion and re­port­ing of the news and com­men­tary. At least with con­ser­va­tive talk, the hosts ad­mit their bias and are hon­est about when they are ed­i­to­ri­al­iz­ing.

The Fair­ness Doc­trine must be stopped again, dead in its tracks.

David Lim­baugh is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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