Paul  Weyrich

I am worried. This is not my usual state of mind but so many signs point to trouble. There are various things of concern, such as the Immigration Bill, and more obscure issues, such as the Trans-North American Highway, which may have the effect of giving up our sovereignty. I am worried about what is happening to talk-radio in this country. Hopefully it does not resemble Hugo Chavez's actions in Venezuela. If you report anything against his regime you are shut down.

The assault against talk-radio here is not quite as drastic as that of the Chavez assault. It could have the same effect. There was no talk-radio as we know it today until the Ronald W. Reagan Administration. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the so-called Fairness Doctrine. The reason stations did not have much talk-radio was because of the Doctrine. For instance, if I appeared on a radio program and expressed strong views on a topic, someone of a different point of view could appear at the station and time would have to be made available. In fact, if there were six different points of view time would need to be made available to all of them.

The left does not like the fact that conservatives dominate talk-radio. It is no coincidence that Rush Limbaugh, king of talk-radio, began syndication in 1988. It is likely that an attempt will be made to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine this fall or winter.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a very strong statement opposing the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. I thought it was safe because in the Senate it takes 60 votes to pass anything, and with McConnell opposed, I figured the bill would be stopped dead in its tracks. But now I'm not sure. My long-time friend Trent Lott (R-MS), whom I have known since the 1960s when we were both staffers on Capitol Hill, is ticked. Lott claims that talk-radio has encouraged people to call his Congressional office on the Immigration Bill. (He claims folks don't know what is in the Bill.) Okay, Senator Lott is upset. Here is the scary part: he said he has to do something about it. Senator Lott is ranking on the Rules Committee. If Lott and his Democratic counterpart got together, they could grease the skids for reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. He already has Senator Lindsay O. Graham (R-SC) singing his tune. Lott is a very able vote-counter.

He might find the votes needed to invoke cloture in the Senate. A WASHINGTON POST reporter quoted Lott, "When they're with you, it's great, when they're not, it's not good." Perhaps we could set up a system to get conservative Senators' permission before talk-radio could go full tilt on an issue.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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