"Fairness" Doctrine

pentapenguin's picture

Here's a great op-ed piece about the "Fairness" Doctrine that would put talk radio (uhh...excuse me, HATE radio) out of business.

July 2, 2007 -- LAST week, the immigration bill died a grisly death at the hands of the talk-radio listeners who have frustrated and confounded me on this issue as I have regularly guest hosted Fox News' morning radio show.

Nearly as frustrating, however, has been the imperial reaction of elected officials to their citizen uprising.

Apparently, democracy is a drag - but it's nothing a little authoritarian censorship can't fix.

Enter the Fairness Doctrine, which has captured the fancy of top Democrats - including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who announced that she is "looking into" reviving it to target talk radio.

The docrine, abandoned by the Federal Communications Commission in 1987, used to compel broadcast licensees - that is, radio and TV stations - to give equal time to both sides of controversial issues. The FCC dropped it after concluding it actually discouraged informed discussion.

Many Democrats joined Republicans in the House last Thursday to support a bill that would bar the doctrine's revival - but the number of high-profile Democrats touting it as a "fix" remains troubling.

Conservatives long ago adapted to life in a world where watching the network news or picking up one of the major news dailies is a virtual guarantee of having their views mocked, demeaned or misrepresented. If you're a social conservative, multiply the odds by 100.

But some liberals, unused to feeling such stings, view government intervention as a salve.

"It's time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). "I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they're in a better position to make a decision."

Except in The New York Times, only one of whose eight op-ed columnists calls himself a conservative.

Liberals claim they just want "fairness" - but if that were so, they wouldn't limit their concern just to talk radio, the one area where they've been shut out (by their own incompetence, mind you - Air America, the liberal talk-radio network, was a complete fiasco). They aren't concerned that Americans "get both sides of the story" on abortion or embryonic-stem-cell research or abstinence training. They weren't concerned about "fairness" when Katie Couric blamed evangelicals for the death of Matthew Shepherd.

They protest that the airwaves belong to the American people. They're right - which is all the more reason to keep grubby government mitts off of them. And if we're going to start dictating media content for the good of the proletariat, then there's no reason to stop with radio. (As Fox's Sean Hannity joked last week, "OK, then we want the 'no sex before marriage' channel to balance out MTV.")

In calling for the restoration of the Fairness Doctrine, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada called conservative talk radio the "generators of simplicity." Presumably this differs from the high-minded debate that occurred over at Air America, where Randi Rhodes liked to say that "Satan is Bush's campaign manager" and routinely claim (why was unclear) that the Bush administration was full of repressed homosexuals.

And if talk radio is so simpleminded that it needs government manhandling, then the rest of the media needs it even more: A 2006 Pew Research survey found that Rush Limbaugh's listeners were the second-most-informed audience (after readers of political magazines) - ahead of NPR and the Daily Show. Generic talk radio ranked ahead of the PBS NewsHour, CNN and daily newspapers.

Back on planet Earth, people know that we live in a world that has more outlets and opportunities for opinions to be heard than at any time in history. Democratic leaders must know it, too - since they cower in fear from the vitriol and threats of a liberal blogosphere that easily rivals conservative talk radio in its ability to influence elected officials.

The FCC's old justification for government-enforced "equal time" was a "scarcity rationale" - a claim that there were so few outlets that the government had a right to regulate content. It smacked of authoritarianism then, and it still does today.

It was also ineffective and counterproductive. The famous 1960 Nixon/Kennedy debate didn't occur until Congress suspended the equal-time rule that year. The next several elections passed without presidential debates because the networks, hamstrung by the equal-time mandate, didn't want to turn over valuable air time to minor candidates.

If liberals want to provide balance in talk radio, they need to stop maligning it - and figure out how to compete on it.

Notice I didn't give the author or a link? There's a reason for that. I'm sorry for the long "cut & paste" (countdown to Basmati yelling at me Eye-wink ), but I wanted everybody to read this piece bias-free as possible without knowing the who the author is. That way you can't automatically discount her or his opinions.

So who wrote this? Michelle Malkin? Robert Novak? Cal Thomas? Thomas Sewell? No, actually, it's from a liberal -- Kirsten Powers.


Can one of the two moderate liberals here argue with Ms. Power's points? Is she wrong on anything?

I don't always agree with her, but I do respect Ms. Powers because she is reasonable and isn't always ideologically blinded to the Democrat's faults.

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Basmati's picture
Submitted by Basmati on Tue, 07/03/2007 - 4:01pm.

"...No, actually, it's from a liberal -- Kirsten Powers."

Well, I'd never heard of Kirsten Powers, which is kinda strange because I read a lot of liberal writers, so I looked her up on good ole Wikipedia.

Gee, whatta surprise. Powers is a political conservative, who strongly criticizes liberal Democrats, and has praised conservative talk radio

Anyway, Pentafool's dissembling aside, resurrection of the "Fairness Doctrine" appears to be the latest strawman attempt to re-focus attention away from the perfidy of the Republican party.

Personally, I have no desire whatsoever to see the Fairness Doctrine resurrected. Talk Radio (or more accurately, "Hate Radio") has denigrated in quality over the years. Virtually no one I know with an IQ over room temperature listens to Hate Radio. It's become the medium of choice for the uninformed (i.e. people too lazy to think for themselves).

I would make one change to existing policy. I would limit the ownership concentration to allow a single entity to own one local radio station and one television station. It's my opinion that these mega-concentrations of media conglomerates stifles competition and the free expression of ideas.

I think the Republican party has now lost control of their slobbering attack dogs. Hate Radio was essentially a mechanism to A) present Repub talking points to the sweating masses and B) provide near-constant demagougery to demonize political opponents. Now we have the Hate Radio tail wagging the Republican Party dog to a great extent, as evidenced by the recent immigration bill fiasco. The Republicans wanted to get the message out that they were "tough" on illegal Hispanics, but Hate Radio simplified the message for its slack-jawed base by dropping "illegal" and demonizing all Hispanics. Net result: Hispanics flocking to the Democratic Party.

Edited to add:
Oh, about that "Pew Research Study"?
Daily show comes out ahead of Rush Limbaugh listeners, yet both are much better informed than Faux News watchers!

Denise Conner's picture
Submitted by Denise Conner on Wed, 07/04/2007 - 7:51pm.

Never heard of Kirsten Powers?!?!

That is "kinda strange" because her bio and columns are available at HuffPo (Huffington Post for the non-leftist loonies here -- which would be almost everyone besides Basmati).

Kirsten A. Powers served in the Clinton Administration as Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public Affairs and has worked in New York city and state politics. Since 2004, she has been a Fox News Political Analyst, where she regularly does on-air battle with Republican opponents on the issues of the day. She currently writes a weekly column for American Prospect Online. Her writing has appeared in USA Today, Elle Magazine, The New York Observer, and Salon. She also writes the blog PowersPoint.

You really should verify the sources used to make statements on Wikipedia. The source for the statement that you quote (Powers is a political conservative, who strongly criticizes liberal Democrats, and has praised conservative talk radio) is based only on her "hate radio" column online at the New York Post.

As far as "dissembling," you failed to also quote Wiki's other bio information:

Powers served in the Clinton administration as the Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public Affairs and was the Vice President for International Communications at America Online. Later she was a Vice President at the AOL-Time Warner Foundation. Powers has worked for the New York State Democratic Committee, was the press secretary for Andrew Cuomo for Governor and Communications Director on the mayoral campaign of C. Virginia Fields. She also worked on the "Vote No on 3" campaign which overwhelmingly defeated Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ballot initiative to eliminate party primaries. Powers was also the press secretary for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair race of Donnie Fowler. She has consulted for a variety of nonprofit organizations including Human Rights First and the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW).


As far as your statement "Daily show comes out ahead of Rush Limbaugh listeners, yet both are much better informed than Faux News watchers!" -- By "Faux News" I suppose you're referring to FOX News?

Since editorials usually do not credit sources, I do not know where Powers got her information. Perhaps she read an earlier study or relied on someone else's misinformation.

Perhaps she's terrible in math and should have someone verify all of her statements that include numbers! Laughing out loud

54% of the viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report (DSCR) scored in the "high knowledge category (answering at least 15 of 23 questions correctly)" compared to 50% of Rush Limbaugh's (RL) listeners. O’Reilly's viewers scored 51% & CNN's, 41%.

I would question the medium's effect on audience retention since visual images are more easily retained than verbal messages and also one would likely concentrate more fully on a TV show than a radio show.

[My opinion is based on some media & communication courses that I've taken (Marshall McLuhan's famous slogan, "the medium is the message") and psychology research about memory and learning.

"Visual short-term memory will have a longer and more accurate duration than auditory short-term memory, because the item being presented is cognitively processed by two different brain functions within short-term memory."]

However, if you combine the high- and moderate-knowledge levels, both DSCR & RL's audience scores total 79% (CNN's = 71%). O’Reilly's viewers scored 83%.

The (liberal) DSCR do have a lot of viewers. "In fact, during the 2004 U.S. presidential election, the [Stewart's] show received more male viewers in the 18-34 year old age demographic than Nightline, Meet the Press, Hannity & Colmes and all of the evening news broadcasts."

Here's an interesting article about the Daily Show's effectiveness: "Jon Stewart: Democratic Majority Kingmaker."

"Jon Stewart 'Hurts the Country,' Science Finds"


Basmati, you seldom post without using pejoratives:


"no one I know with an IQ over room temperature"

"Hate Radio"


"people too lazy to think for themselves"

"slobbering attack dogs"

"the sweating masses"

"near-constant demagougery [sic] to demonize political opponents"

"slack-jawed base"

["denigrated in quality over the years" -- What you meant, I assume, it "degenerated" in quality?]

9 pejoratives / vituperations/ invectives in a less than 300-word post, or about 1 every 30 words.

Are you really Michael Moore or Rosie O'Donnell? Laughing out loud


Out! Out! You demons of stupidity!

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Wed, 07/04/2007 - 8:19pm.

I never heard of Kirsten Powers either!
Faux News is FOX news, I thought everyone surely knew that.
They do a but, but.... Clinton, every time we want to hear the war news. I always have to turn to CNN to get those death numbers. The long, lengthy, without top legs are better on Faux however. The 10degree camera angle almost gives us a view similar to a famous movie of leg crossings.
If E.D. Hills kids grow up normal and aren't vipers, I will be surprised.
I hear that Faux news will soon feature a rasslin match at mid point of the news to garner even more of their type watchers.

Mixer's picture
Submitted by Mixer on Wed, 07/04/2007 - 8:37pm.

I am not sure why we conservatives don't just assume you are speaking French every time. You guys are so.... European! Socialized medicine, tight white pants, the eagerness to surrender, the lies, the 'Faux' science! Wow. Viva La France! Gay Paris!

Peut-être vous devriez nous faire tous une faveur et vous déplacer en France.

If WWII had been covered by the Modern Media: Great Video

maximus's picture
Submitted by maximus on Tue, 07/03/2007 - 4:35pm.

“I would make one change to existing policy. I would limit the ownership concentration to allow a single entity to own one local radio station and one television station. It's my opinion that these mega-concentrations of media conglomerates stifles competition and the free expression of ideas.”

And the government should only allow 1 bumper sticker per car, and the government should only allow 1 blog post per day, and the government should only allow a person to own 1 gas station, restaurant, or auto shop, and the government should allow just 1 kid per family, and the government should…


Stop Global Whining

Mixer's picture
Submitted by Mixer on Tue, 07/03/2007 - 8:09pm.

The Fairness Doctrine might well be the most obsolete piece of legislation ever considered for revitalization. It was developed in the 1940's.

First of all, it violates free speech. It could never withstand a challenge in court. With literally thousands of sources for information now, even the spirit of the law has been superseded by technology and the market place.

Secondly, PBS and NPR would have to cut their liberal ranting in half and you know that the taxpayer funded liberal elites will never allow that to occur.

Think of all the electronically transmitted newspapers that would be begging for conservative columnists .... oh my, Mixer might even get a job on the Side! Of course we would then need to put the FCC in charge of the Internet since they would need to regulate electronic transmissions of data to keep it clear and balanced. Oh my!

Trust me.... the liberals who think this through beyond talk radio will be as quiet as a church mouse.

We would get half of ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, PBS, LA Times, AJC, Boston Globe, Seattle Sentinel, heck, it would be a windfall for conservatives!

Which time slots and columns do you think would have the ratings?

Please don't throw me in the fair and balanced patch!

If WWII had been covered by the Modern Media: Great Video

maximus's picture
Submitted by maximus on Tue, 07/03/2007 - 3:54pm.

The ‘fairness doctrine’ is completely indefensible. The raging leftist lunatics at Air America could not understand why no one wanted to listen to them, just as the raging leftist dems in congress can’t understand why people listen to Rush, Hannity, Levin, Ingram, etc. They can’t deal with the exposure and opposing views so they want to shut them down.


Stop Global Whining

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Tue, 07/03/2007 - 4:32pm.

The "conservative" lunatics upset the American people with their unfairness so, that about half of the conservatives who backed them lost elections last time. The other half is very likely to go over the next few years.
Most of us are not 6th graders and recognize when something is all one way.

Paul Perkins's picture
Submitted by Paul Perkins on Tue, 07/03/2007 - 3:42pm.

And don't forget about the Preacher. He will have to find someone who will speak up for Satan on Sunday morning!

(Deleted my list of suggested speakers before posting Smiling )

the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address- 1961

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