Free Speech at Risk: A Free Congress Forum on the Fairness Doctrine

Paul  Weyrich
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Posted: Apr 17, 2007 12:01 AM

Conservatism survives and continues to evolve no matter who holds the majority in Congress or lives in the White House. Our essays and panel discussions on "The New Conservatism" have been honing the finer points of theory and practice for several years. However, if the current Congress gets its way over the next few months or if the President in the next term is a Democrat it will be nearly impossible for us to get the word out on radio anymore.

As I wrote in my Notable News Commentary of February 5, 2007, the Majority Leadership is threatening to enact into law the so-called Fairness Doctrine. And even if they do not succeed in Congress, the next President simply could "persuade" the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue a regulation which would accomplish the same thing. Thus there may be two bites at the apple.

For those who don't really understand what this means, the Fairness Doctrine is an antiquated rule left over from the days of the "Big three" television networks and a limited number of radio stations. It was repealed by the FCC in 1987. Now the liberals want it back so they can have equal radio time - free equal radio time - to take on commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Unable to compete on a level playing field they have fallen back on their old standby plan of regulating. If you can't compete, they reason, cry foul and force popular radio programs that make a profit to give you equal time. If the Fairness Doctrine were imposed liberals would finally have their dreams come true: they would have control of all media, from the majority of the nation's newspapers to the television networks to cable television and the Internet and radio. Conservative talk radio, which has been so successful the past 20 years, would be a thing of the past.

On a recent Friday the 13th, Rightalk held an on-air panel discussion of this imminent threat, appropriately enough on radio. Moderated by Free Congress Foundation analyst and military historian William S. Lind, the panel included well-known conservative activist and editor of Accuracy in Media Cliff Kincaid; the former Secretary of the State of Ohio, Ken Blackwell; libertarian personality and host of the radio show "Battle Line," Alan Nathan, and the irrepressible political consultant and longtime media commentator Dick Morris. It was interesting to hear each man speak to the issue and remind us of the history of the Fairness Doctrine and why it would be a pointless and purely political move to reinstate it.

Opening the discussion, conservative businessman, educator and diplomat Ken Blackwell suggested that liberals should stick to making ice cream and writing entertaining television shows inasmuch as this is what they do best. Radio is just not their medium, he stated. Dick Morris related several of his experiences with former President William J. Clinton and his wife and current presidential hopeful, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and their feelings about people such as Rush Limbaugh, whom the Clintons believe is guilty of "hate speech." Cliff Kincaid reminded the audience that "hate speech" is the way liberals have come to define all words and theories with which they disagree. Free speech, he warned, as defined by the current majority in Congress, means you must agree with the concept of political correctness. If you don't buy that, then free speech doesn't apply to you. Kincaid also predicted that the recent uproar and subsequent firing of radio personality Don Imus, for using crude language about a women's basketball team consisting mostly of young black women, might be used as a blueprint for the future firings of conservative radio personalities.

Moderator Bill Lind agreed with Kincaid. He further stated that the theory of "cultural Marxism" has been applied to many aspects of our society and that fairness applies only to the traditional "one world" viewpoint. Lind also suggested the Fairness Doctrine be re-christened as the "Unfairness Doctrine." Finally, radio personality Alan Nathan, who "battles the left and the right" as a libertarian, had some thoughts on why the Fairness Doctrine wouldn't work, would be impossible to enforce and wasn't needed. All in all, it was a lively discussion of an issue we all thought long dead, but which, like the Equal Rights Amendment, may soon be given new life in the laboratory of some obsessed - though no doubt politically correct -- mad scientist of the left.