In the 1980s, the liberal media monopoly, which had sustained the Democrats in power for 50 years, began to break down. First, Ronald Reagan got rid of the "fairness doctrine." This rule required radio and television stations to offer equal time for contrary political viewpoints. The result was that they presented no political viewpoints at all, rather than waste valuable airtime providing equal time. This had no impact on liberals, who controlled the allegedly objective news departments, and mainly stifled conservatives.
Abolition of the fairness doctrine created talk radio, which quickly became dominated by conservative voices. To many conservatives, hearing someone like Rush Limbaugh for the first time was like water in the desert to a man dying of thirst. Although Limbaugh presents a lot of opinions, of course, he also presents a lot of news -- something liberals have never understood about his success.
Air America, the liberal radio network, is not Limbaugh's competitor; ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, Time and Newsweek are. Whatever else one thinks about these institutions, they are as one in terms of a liberal political philosophy. If you see one, you really don't need to see the others; they are all pretty much the same.
With an untapped conservative market just sitting there for the taking and the advent of cable and satellite television, Rupert Murdoch created Fox News and finally gave conservatives a news network where they weren't sneered at and denigrated, where conservative analysts and politicians shared airtime with the usual liberal talking heads, where facts and information could be found that the Dan Rathers of the major media would never allow on the air.
The last piece was the blossoming of the Internet, especially the blog phenomenon. As with talk radio, conservatives quickly dominated this new media outlet. In effect, they replaced newspapers for conservative readers. They could now finds facts and views wherever they might appear, anywhere in the world, conveniently linked by their favorite blogger.
Thus, there was finally a full-blown conservative alternative to the liberal media domination that had existed for decades. This, I believe, is behind the tightening of political races. Now, both sides can get their message out with equal effectiveness, thus returning politics to the 19th century norm, before liberals took de facto control of all major media, creating an era of liberal political domination that was a historical aberration.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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