In our 2007 book “The Death of Talk Radio?” Cliff Kincaid and I warned that if Democrats were to retake the White House, they would implement their plan to dismantle conservative talk radio. It didn’t take long. On Election Day, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York went on Fox News and said, “I think we should all be fair and balanced, don’t you?”
Schumer may have thought he was being clever, but talk radio hosts such as myself have reason to be wary. Anyone who is a consumer of talk radio either for entertainment or to keep up with current events should be concerned. Schumer was not being cute; he was being arrogant.
With the election over, and with the Democrats about to control both houses of Congress, the White House, and — with President Obama’s appointment power — the federal judiciary, liberals like Sen. Schumer and organizations like Media Matters for America have no reason to hold back. They don’t believe the First Amendment has any relevance to talk radio and they intend to end conservative dominance of the dial.
It’s not like they’ve been all that stealthy anyway. The “Media Act” bill, introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, has been floating around for a long time. And there are prominent Democrats who have openly pined for a “Hush Rush” measure including Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Diane Feinstein and Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
But Schumer took it a step forward, practically announcing that the era of talk radio is over: “The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC 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.”
So Schumer is comparing conservative talk radio to pornography, is he? This would be laughable except for the fact that “progressives” now hold the cards. If they want to deem talk radio as porn, only the Supreme Court stands in their way. President Obama can fix that with a few appointments, which he almost certainly will get.
The strange thing about all this is that the Democrats, at least for now, are winning. Why would they want to tamper with the current system?
They have two rising media stars: Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, both on talk-cable and both on MSNBC. Olbermann is a flaming liberal and Maddow, while not as intentionally objectionable in her rhetoric, is just as far left. During the election cycle, their shows shot into the one million viewer range, putting them in the rarefied air of Fox’s numbers.
Potentially, the Democrats could put a cork in Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity (on radio) and Michael Savage while leaving Olbermann and Maddow unscathed. That’s because Cable TV is subscription based.
Unfair? Maybe. But we are talking about an unbalanced Congress in more ways than one.
“Fairness isn’t going to hurt anybody. I just can’t imagine these people who want to fight against fairness,” said Congresswoman Slaughter to Bill Moyers back in 2004. But this is “media fairness” in the same way that Obama promises to spread “economic justice.” Obama’s long-used term is code for “spread the wealth” just as the “Fairness Doctrine” is an Orwellian name for shutting up the opposition.
Seeing this coming, Congressman Mike Pence introduced “The Broadcaster Freedom Act” in 2007 that would prevent government tampering with free speech on the air. At that time, all Republicans signed on to sponsor the bill. A lone Democrat, Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, cosponsored it. That speaks volumes about how Democrats feel about censorship.
Since then, we’ve seen a candidate elected to the presidency who bristles when anyone speaks out against his ideas. Look what happened to Joe the Plumber and to certain reporters who worked for papers like the Dallas Morning News that endorsed McCain.
The Fairness Doctrine is going to make a comeback, and the only thing that might stop it is the American people. They must realize that if the new liberal majority takes away the right of talk hosts to comment — it is also taking away their right to listen.