Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Fearness Doctrine

There's a funny article on Salon titled "Is Rush Limbaugh next?" It covers a panel discussion that (really) took place last Friday, in which wingnuts wondered whether the ousting of Don Imus portends a wholesale purge of conservative talk radio hosts.

Not that the wingnuts consider Imus a conservative, mind you. Check out this bit of paranoia:

… the left has sacrificed one of their own to give them a platform to go after true conservative talk show hosts.

That insight came from Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State whom you might remember from his stalwart oversight of the elections in 2004, and it's far from the most lunatic of the utterances noted.

The bulk of the panel discussion revolved around fears that We, the All-Mighty Liberals Who Control All Media, are bent on reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. Until reading the Salon article, I was vaguely aware that this law was no longer around, but I didn't know that it was abolished by the FCC during the Reagan Administration, an act which the Salon article notes was "widely credited with making the explosion of conservative talk radio possible."

For the younger readers: the Fairness Doctrine basically mandated that whenever a broadcast outlet aired an opinion piece, it was required to give equal air time to someone who wanted to express an opposing point of view. This was all part of the quaint notion that the airwaves belonged to the public, a view last popular in Congress when we shared the Earth with dinosaurs.

I buy the argument that there are enough outlets for differing views these days that we don't need to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine. Also, I'm convinced that it would be a waste of money and a source of way too much squabbling and hot air. Even if I thought it was a good idea in principle, the reality of today's political arena is that it would almost certainly be doomed to failure in implementation.

So, I don't plan to vote in favor of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine when We all get together at George Soros's secret hideaway to plot our next moves to suppress conservative voices.

But I'm glad that we've got the wingnuts fretting about the possibility.


2007-04-18 13:18 EDT

It just occurred to me that one of the inside baseball memes threading through the blogosphere (example here) concerns the possibility that Law & Order reruns featuring Fred Thompson would have to be removed from TV during his campaign, because of the Fairness Doctrine. Anybody got any ideas as to why this meme has legs? I mean, isn't the Fairness Doctrine gone?


Anonymous said...

I do some work with the NAB, and the irony of a revamped Fairness Doctrine is that for every conservative who thinks that it portends the end of conservative talk radio, there is a liberal who is advocating it's reinstatement using the same argument. Of course, both parties are wrong. The reality is that reinstating the Fairness Doctrine in the form advocated by Kucinich and friends would actually result in a decrease in the number of diverse and independent voices in media, as tightening of media ownership rules (a chief aspect of the larger "fairness" plan) has been shown to result in more homogenized media.

bjkeefe said...

I reiterate my agreement that the FD is not the way to go these days, Nabisco, but I have one quibble with your final point. It seems to me that the homogenization of MSM has come about from a loosening of ownership rules, not a tightening. I am thinking, in particular, of the new permission for one company to own many radio stations, and the new permission for one company to own a radio station in the same market in which it owns the only newspaper.

Not only has conservative talk radio flourished since the Reagan Administration (a situation I consider unfortunate, but not something I want to make laws against), but look at behemoths like Clear Channel, and the consequent suckage of FM radio since they began swallowing up the independents.