The Fairness Doctrine, an FCC regulation in force from 1949 to 1987, required broadcasters to present "both sides" of controversial issues. During that time, liberals had a virtual monopoly on the media.
Since the rule was repealed, conservative talk radio has exploded -- Rush Limbaugh launched his syndicated radio show in 1988 -- and other media outlets multiplied: the Internet, including blogs, cable and satellite TV and satellite radio, among others. The conservative viewpoint has fared quite well in the new media.This is not to say that the government's elimination of the regulation discriminated against the liberal message. The liberal viewpoint still dominates the mainstream media, cable TV, except for Fox News, and the overwhelming number of major print media outlets. Liberals also have equal access to new media outlets, though they've had enormous difficulty competing in the marketplace of ideas.
It's instructive to remember that while conservatives grew hoarse complaining about the monolithic liberal message, they didn't advocate suppression of liberal speech. Their remedy, instituted -- fittingly -- in the Reagan years, was to open up, not constrict or regulate the media market.
The results have been dramatic, with conservatives finally having a significant voice in the media, albeit mostly in the new media, though a singular liberal message still prevails in the old media, not to mention public broadcasting.
Liberals can't stand the competition. Democratic Congressman Maurice Hinchey is sponsoring the "Media Ownership Reform Act," whose proposed reforms include the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. Hinchey denies wanting to muzzle conservative hosts. But, "This will ensure that different views will also be heard. People are being prevented from getting the right information." Really? Latest polls show 60 percent of Americans are opposed to the Iraq war. Will Hinchey not be satisfied until it's 90 percent?
This is nothing but abject sophistry. Different views are already heard -- and not just in the mainstream media. There have never been more media choices. Nothing -- except consumer resistance -- precludes liberal entry into the talk radio market. But the First Amendment doesn't require people to listen to and support your message.