Sometimes this “free speech” and “free press” stuff just gets a little out of hand, don’t ya think?
Politicians in Broward County Florida (the land of the “dangling chad,” as you might recall) apparently thought so. The Board of Commissioners there attempted to ban further engagement between the county government, and a local radio station.
You probably saw the headlines. Radio station 610 WIOD in Miami, a news/talk station owned and operated by ClearChannel Communications, has for the past year had an arrangement in place whereby the radio station provides full coverage of news conferences and other emergency information during storm situations.
Essentially, WIOD has been Broward County’s emergency information station for the past year - - which is a very substantial commitment from the radio station ownership and staff - - and by all accounts that arrangement has worked well.
But despite the fact that it is working (note to the haters of “corporate America“ - - a commercially operated radio station is “serving the public interest” here), the county commissioners - - who are all Democrats - - let it be known that they might like to abandon the relationship between the county government and the radio station.
Why would the commissioners want to disrupt a program that serves the public with potentially life-saving information being broadcast on one of the most powerful radio outlets (both over-the-air and on the web) on the East Coast?
Because the radio station also airs The Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity shows, and thus in their view is “out of step with area politics.”
The commissioners have now back-tracked from this original position, and given the deluge of complaints, are “re-thinking” the matter. But the mindset that is in play here is clear: if other people, organizations and institutions don’t embody the “correct” political sensibilities - - BAN ‘EM!
Gosh, doesn’t this sound familiar? It was only two months ago that the three leading Democratic presidential candidates chose to “ban” their “relationship” with a presidential debate venue set-up by the Congressional Black Caucus, because the Fox News Channel was going to televise the event.
After the arrangements were set, Clinton, Obama and Edwards all backed-out of the deal last May because of the perceived political sensibilities of America’s number one cable news channel. Once again, the “correct” sensibilities were not in play - - sooooo……….BAN ‘EM!
At least former presidential candidate John Kerry had the good sense to “come in from the ledge,” so to speak, when he felt inconvenienced by Fox News Channel. Kerry apparently was so enraged by Host Neil Cavuto’s on-air comments about Osama Bin Laden supporting the Kerry-Edwards ticket back in 2004 that he threatened to “BAN ‘EM” from his campaign altogether - - but then decided that making an enemy of a cable news outlet days before the election didn’t help him any, and reversed course.
But it’s not just political types who defer to the “BAN ‘EM” approach when they see or hear something they don‘t like.
On the same day that the Broward County Commissioners’ news broke, Actress Angelina Jolie was debuting her new film “A Mighty Heart.” Jolie specifically targeted Fox News Channel with an attempt to “BAN ‘EM” from the red carpet (it didn’t work), while her lawyer required all other journalists attending the event to sign a contract before they could speak with her.
In “A Mighty Heart,” Ms. Jolie portrays the widow of former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, a journalist who was captured, held at gunpoint, and beheaded by terrorists in 2002. She appeared to have no regard for how tragically ironic her censoring and “BAN ‘EM” behavior was, especially given that her film tells the story of a man who lost his life while working as a part of a “free press.”
But the “BAN ‘EM” approach might soon morph into something different. As recently as four weeks ago, reports emerged indicating that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will make aggressive attempts over the next six months to have the so-called “fairness doctrine” reinstated.
The “fairness doctrine,” as it has historically been known, does not on the surface purport to “ban” certain types of media content, but rather it requires “balance” and “equal time” among different points of view.
Most of this doctrine, which was enforced by the FCC, was eliminated in 1987. But were it to become the law of the land again, three hours of conservative Sean Hannity or Hugh Hewitt talk show radio programming would presumably need to be followed-up with 3 hours of a liberal talk show….and on and on it goes.
It remains to be seen if the Democratically controlled Congress has the will to try and make American media more “fair” in this fashion. The Congressional leadership may choose to wait, with the hope that Democrats can maintain control of the Congress and win back the White House in 2008.
But whether their approach is to “BAN ‘EM,” or to concoct some false sense of “fairness,” there is a reason why so many on the left are often so quick to cut-off the free flow of information and to squelch any competition among ideas.
It’s because their ideas - - and beliefs and attitudes and behavior - - are often wildly unpopular. And one such idea is the “fairness doctrine” itself.
Can the left, politically speaking, afford to force this kind of coercive control on an already cynical American public? Time will tell - - stay tuned.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.