Horace Cooper

Late last month the Center for the American Progress released a report entitled “the Structural Imbalance of Talk Radio.” The study purportedly provides a seriously analysis of the partisan programming that exists on talk radio and concludes that it is overwhelming right of center. Notwithstanding the pseudo-scientific nature of this report, it’s clearly more pseudo than science.

To start with the study rests on an amazingly loose definition of what constitutes left and what constitutes right leaning programming. It doesn’t include any of the programming broadcast nationwide by National Public Radio and then places in the category of right leaning programming almost any format that doesn’t embrace a hard left agenda. As a result – stations in LA, NYC and San Francisco were listed as having little to no “progressive” formats. Tellingly the study acknowledges that “only hosts with evident and near- indisputable leanings were categorized.” This resulted in almost all programming not promoting Che Gueverra being categorized as “right of center.”

But the flaws don’t stop there. Although this study fails to accurately identify programming – it is indisputable that talk radio skews right – it’s greatest failing is its implication that the skew itself is an issue which needs a legislative solution. Moreover, this study’s recommendations reject two fundamentals of the American system – free speech and free markets.

It is axiomatic that under the First Amendment the federal government should not make assessments of the political content of talk radio or of any news program and they clearly shouldn’t link keeping your license to those assessments. Setting aside questions about indecency, obscenity or hate speech, the type of programming criticized in the CAP study is exactly the type of activity that the First Amendment exists to protect.


Horace Cooper

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and a Senior Fellow with the Institute for Liberty.