New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey is on a mission. His Website prominently quotes the congressman’s call to arms, “A diverse American media that presents a wide array of ideas from all sides of the political spectrum is essential to the maintenance of our democracy. If the media becomes corrupted then we've begun the erosion of the American political system and the American democracy.”
Before we begin the chorus of amens, it’s important to note the congressman isn’t talking about the evening news on ABC, CBS and NBC. He isn’t talking about the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle or even the Cleveland Plain Dealer. And no, he doesn’t care about CNN and MSNBC either. They don’t bother the good representative. He is talking about Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager and Michael Medved.
You see, Congressman Hinchey is a liberal and liberals are good at several things. They make entertaining movies and write catchy toe-tapping songs. They even make delicious all natural ice cream. But they can’t figure out talk radio. In fact, they are terrible at it. Al Franken never really competed with Rush Limbaugh as he had promised. And Air America Radio became a better punch line than bottom line.
While liberals hold a virtual monopoly on broadcast television and print news, many on the left just can’t stomach the reality of a dominant conservative presence on talk radio. They want to give Mr. Franken and his pessimism and rage-filed talk radio comrades something they could not obtain on their own – market share.
This is why liberals are so eager to bring back a roundly rejected and blatantly unconstitutional piece of government intrusiveness know as the Fairness Doctrine. And Hinchey is ready to do the heavy lifting with his Media Ownership Reform Act, which includes reinstatement of the doctrine. If it passes, the legislation would force radio stations that air conservative talk shows to also air liberal shows – regardless of listener interest or sponsor support.
It’s a tried and true strategy intended to silence voices with whom Hinchey and his liberal brethren disagree.
The doctrine was created by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949 to bring “balance” to political debate over the public airwaves.
During its initial run, Democrat and Republican administrations rode herd over broadcasters determining what was fair and threatening the licenses of those deemed not fair enough. Former Kennedy administration official Bill Ruder told Tony Snow for a 1993 Washington Times piece, “We had a massive strategy to use the fairness doctrine to challenge and harass the right-wing broadcasters, and hope the challenge would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.”
The Fairness Doctrine was ultimately repealed in 1987 by the great enemy of foreign and domestic oppressor alike – Ronald Reagan. He referred to the doctrine as “antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
As a result, Rush Limbaugh exploded onto the scene and started what is now referred to as the “new media” providing detailed analysis and debate to encourage listeners to read between the lines of reports from the often liberal mainstream media. This deregulation of the radio industry also helped revitalize AM radio, which was dying during the 1970s thanks to the newly popular static-free FM stations.
Radio stations were finally able to broadcast local and syndicated content to fit the local market preferences, without fear of government intervention. Now, instead of only about 100 talk radio stations, Americans can choose from more than 1,400, not including satellite radio or talk show internet audio streams. In fact, since Reagan put an end to the talk radio police, there are more liberal and conservative talk show hosts on the air than ever before.
With talk shows on AM, FM, HD and satellite radio, and streamed over the internet, there are an infinite number of ways for every conceivable opinion to be broadcasted.
Giving government a power it instinctively will abuse is never a prudent course of action.
If liberals think it’s just too hard to compete with the Rush Limbaughs of the world, then they should focus on what they do best, like making ice cream. Congressman Hinchey would be pleased to know that Ben and Jerry’s even has a flavor for him – New York Super Fudge Chunk.