The "Fairness Doctrine" Is The Least Of Our Concerns

Posted: Jun 29, 2008 12:00 AM
The "Fairness Doctrine" Is The Least Of Our Concerns

Barack Obama has weighed-in on the issue of reinstating the so-called “Fairness Doctrine.”

After being repeatedly questioned about the candidate’s position, campaign Press Secretary Michael Ortiz stated in an email message that “Senator Obama does not support re-imposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters.”

This position could be yet another one of those “deeply-held convictions” that Obama believes in unequivocally, similar to his long-held position on campaign finance reform.

In January of 2007, Obama stated in a CNN interview with Larry King that the public-financing system “works.” Later that year, Mr. Obama challenged Republican presidential candidates to join him in limiting their campaign spending. Earlier this year he made it a point of reminding Democratic primary voters that he has spent much of his professional life supporting public campaign financing.

And then, when confronted with the opportunity of shattering private campaign fundraising records - - even the stratospheric records set by George W. Bush earlier this decade - - Mr. Obama abandoned his convictions about public financing and chose a private financing route instead, allowing him to spend unlimited amounts of money on his campaign. Moreover, Mr. Obama even blamed Republicans for his “need” to abandon his convictions, and portrayed the ditching of his own beliefs as some sort of moral high ground.

It’s not difficult to imagine that Mr. Obama, man of conviction that he is, might quickly change his position about the “Fairness Doctrine,“ after taking the oath of office next year. Several key Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill are already preparing the way for the doctrine‘s return, including California Senator Diane Feinstein, New York Representative Louise Slaughter, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Surely the Democratic Majority in Congress will be looking to President Obama for “leadership” on the issue next year.

But fortunately, thanks in no small part to Rush Limbaugh, millions of Americans know that the “Fairness Doctrine” has nothing to do with “fairness,“ and everything to do with constraining consumer choice as it regards media content. Yet, what many Americans are not aware of is the emerging, liberal, “media reform movement,” that has been growing for most of this decade. And while the agenda of the “media reform movement” is essentially the same as that of the “Fairness Doctrine” advocates, the tactics entailed in this movement are different.

Liberal non-profit organizations, touting themselves as “consumer advocate” and “watchdog” groups, have been sprouting-up around the country during the Bush presidency, lamenting the lack of “consumer choice” and the “content” and “quality” of information that American consumers receive via local and national media. Activists within this movement use morally high-minded terms like “media justice” (whatever this means), “democratizing the media,” and “diversity.”

Now arguably, in our present era of blogging, “citizen journalism,” and “You Tube”- styled web portals, the media landscape is more diverse now that it ever has been. But the “media reform” activists ignore the many ways in which our free-market economy has allowed anyone and everyone to communicate to the world, and how it has given rise to a greater diversity of radio formats than ever before. Instead, liberal activists express concern over what they believe are “alarming trends” in American media, and seek legislative “solutions” to these trends.

They lament the phenomena of “media consolidation” (“too much power over America’s airwaves is concentrated in the hands of too few companies”), ignoring that it was President Bill Clinton who ushered-in the present levels of corporate radio ownership with the “Telecom Bill of 1995.” They lament the declining circulation of hardcopy newspapers - - as though it is a Bush-Cheney scandal that Americans are choosing the internet over the printed paper. They lament that Americans choose to consume the “biased” Fox Newschannel more than they choose to consume CNN (as though CNN is somehow “objective”). And they lament that Americans choose to listen to the conservative Sean Hannity radio show, more than they choose, say, the liberal Alan Colmes radio show.

And make no mistake - - the “media reform” movement is, itself, liberal. At the recent, 4th annual “National Conference For Media Reform” in Minneapolis, the list of keynote speakers included liberal commentator Bill Moyers, and Dan Rather - - the man who dragged CBS News through the gutter and was ultimately fired by the organization for lying about the President of the United States in the election year of 2004. The conference also included a sympathetic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who offered his own lament about the “dumbed-down civic dialog” that our current media landscape has created.

Ultimately, activists within the “media reform movement” don’t like the fact that as choices and options have expanded for American media consumers, conservative personalities and ideas have proliferated. Americans, choosing freely, are ultimately choosing the “wrong” kind of media content, and this must be stopped.

Should he win the election, look for President Obama to lead with his “convictions” on “media reform” - - just as he did with campaign finance reform.