Butch Lugrod’s Manopia

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Posts Tagged ‘regulation

Nothing fair about this doctrine

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Every year around this time, folks in Congress start talking about the fairness doctrine.

In 2007, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a close ally of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told The Hill, “It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. 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.”

The fairness doctrine is anything but fair. It is not fair to broadcasters and it is not fair to consumers. This is the government dictating the composition of political content over the airwaves, which is a somewhat scary proposition. Says Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY):

“The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to limit pornography on the air. I am for that… But you can’t say government hands off in one area to a commercial enterprise but you are allowed to intervene in another. That’s not consistent.”

Who says it has to be consistent? I would much rather just live with broadcast pornography than having the government restrict or regulate the political content over our airwaves. The Democrats have a serious fundamental misunderstanding of the issue. These broadcasters are not doing anything to discourage or exclude left wing hosts from being on the air — they are simply reacting to what the market demands. The margins made in radio broadcasting (and television, for that matter) are razor thin. Trust me, if there was a profit to be made, then there would be dozens of prominent liberal hosts heating up the airwaves. Air America tried it, but they had terrible hosts and even worse marketing. It was a big failure. Until the left can actually put forth decent radio content, they are going to continue to be marginalized as fringe media.

Over on the television side, flamboyantly liberal hosts have had a mixed record. Only recently has MSNBC started to make some inroads into this market with Keith Olbermann — but this was after years of experimenting with washups like Chris Matthews, Phil Donahue and Bill Press.

The left is yet to find an an answer for talk radio, so they think that regulating it is the solution. The right wing is successful on the radio not because of ownership, management, or “unfairness.” They have been successful because they have been able to put together a long string of successful and interesting (you could also say fiery) hosts who have been able to find audiences. Like him or not, Rush Limbaugh is successful because he approaches politics with a sense of humor, irony, and intelligence. Where is the left’s answer to Rush? There has to be someone out there. Bill Press is just too boring to listen to, so don’t bother. Al Franken does not have grasp of the issues or the right type of humor for the medium — lets face it, Franken’s humor is just way too angry for mass market appeal. He could find an audience, but it is going to be the same limited audience that likes the anger of Michael Savage.

Today, there is less need for the fairness doctrine than ever before. Citizens have virtually limitless access to differing points of view on their 900 cable channels, the internet, satellite radio, etc. Instead of regulating, the left needs to consider competing. They have the audience, they just need to find the talent.

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