The Un-Fairness Doctrine

The Left just cant give it up.

Once you’ve had a virtual monopoly on the airwaves, its difficult to deal with a new landscape in which anyone can express a political opinion about anything without fear of regulation or retribution.

But thats what happened to the Left.

One morning, they woke up and heard things on the radio that theyd never heard before. It was shocking. How could an ex-disc jockey named Rush Limbaugh say these things? And then the info-gods seemed to just pile on. First it was talk radio; then cable TV came along with its glut of nightly talk shows.

All this diversity of opinion came about because broadcasters no longer had to worry about an FCC regulation called the Fairness Doctrine.

Since 1985 when FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler announced that the Doctrine violated the First Amendment and harmed the public interest, the Left has been in a state of denial. They believed that the constitutionality of the Doctrine would ultimately be upheld as it had been in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC in 1969. And since 1987, when the Doctrine DID go away, the Left has never stopped trying to bring it back.

In that very year, Congress tried to contest the FCCs abandonment of the regulation. Legislation to fully restore the Doctrine made it to President Ronald Reagans desk, and he promptly vetoed it. Another attempt to bring back the Doctrine in 1991 failed when President George H.W. Bush made it known that he, too, would veto such a measure.

The Fairness in Broadcasting Act of 1993, sponsored by Ernest Hollings (D.-S.C.) in the Senate and Bill Hefner (D.-N.C.) in the House would have placed the Doctrine into law, but it went nowhere.

As of 2007, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio), and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D.-N.Y.) are announced supporters of returning the Doctrine. But perhaps the most up-front proponent is Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.) whose MEDIA ACT (HR. 4710) would reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and ensure that broadcasters present discussions of conflicting views on issues of public importance.

Now comes California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, telling FOX News Sunday that talk radio "pushes people, to, I think, extreme views without a lot of information." And when Chris Wallace asked her if she would revive the Fairness Doctrine, she said, "Im looking at it because I think there ought to be an opportunity to present the other side" On that same telecast, Republican Sen. Trent Lott had to respond to his comment that "talk radio is running America and we have to deal with that problem."

Then, theres a new 40-page report from the Center for American Progress and the Free Press entitled "The Structural Imbalance of Talk Radio." The report laments the right wing domination of talk radio and discusses how to end it. One of the authors is Paul "Woody" Woodhull, who has a stake in the issue since hes a financial backer of two liberal talk hosts: Ed Schultz and Bill Press.

And so the battle lines are drawn. Its a matter of time. And elections.

The Left has never gotten over the fact that it once had a media monopoly. It hates the New Media, particularly talk radio, and can’t understand why so many people tune in. As Hillary Clinton once opined, it must be due to some vast right-wing conspiracy.

Under Republican presidents, efforts to restore government regulation that might allow the courts to decide fairness have failed. Attempts to counter conservative talk radio with liberal talk shows (Air America) failed. Nobody listened to the liberal comedians that served as hosts.

The Hate Radio movement has achieved moderate success, but the highest-profile victim, Don Imus, was not a conservative.

The best way for the Left to restore liberal balance to the airwaves remains the ballot box. One is hard-pressed to think that any of the Democratic presidential frontrunners particularly Hillary Clinton or Al Gore if he should enter race would not enthusiastically support the return of the Fairness Doctrine.

The Democrats are two-thirds of the way back to regulation. All they need is the White House.