Tag Archives: freedom of speech

What’s fair about the Fairness Doctrine?

I feel so dense when it comes to understanding the “Fairness Doctrine”.  I’ve heard many try to explain it, both those opposed and those salivating over the idea of a world without Rush.  I think of myself as a fair-minded person.  In fact, I have a great big fairness button inside that gets pushed fairly often. 

So what, exactly, is fair about the Fairness Doctrine?

As I understand it, and please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, this law would mandate that any radio station carrying talk radio shows would need to give equal amounts of time to opposite views.  I thought we had that already.  I thought that in this country, where we all have our freedom of speech spelled out in the First Amendment, any station can carry any programming they want, and any person can express their views in any medium.

Radio stations need to make money so that all the folks who work there can continue to get their paychecks.  They also need to be able to keep their jobs, so it is good for them and for the country’s economy for a radio station to be successful.  (Hmmmmmm……I just wonder, would this concept apply to all business?  Gosh, do you think that means that if a large company is successful and makes a lot of money, that this is actually good in some way?  Instead of being evil, I mean.  Wow, what a concept; I’ll have to think on that some.)

Anyway, back to radio.  So it behooves a radio station to be successful, which they do by broadcasting in a format that’s popular and attracts many listeners, and by selling advertising time.  Those annoying commercials.  And the more listeners, the better that station looks to businesses looking for a place to advertise their product.  A popular radio program, or even an entire lineup of popular shows would be terrific for the station, the advertisers, and, don’t forget, all those regular Americans who work there.  I’m not talking about the one you hear on the station, I’m talking about the ones who keep the equipment running, do the cleaning, sell the ads, write out the paychecks–all those people.  People like you and me.  

So, why is it Rush’s fault, or Laura’s, or Sean’s, or Mark’s, or anyone who speaks from a certain point of view, that the other point of view can’t make a  living saying what they want to say?  Nobody is keeping them from starting their own programs.  They have the absolute right today to get on a station and have their own program.  Air America was a station that carried left-leaning talk; nobody “shut them down”, they just couldn’t get enough listeners to make anybody want to advertise with them, and consequently, couldn’t make any money.  

This is purely market-driven.  No conspiracies here.  Just the free market at work.  

So what it seems to me is, that because not enough people want to listen to Al Franken and others who share his political beliefs, they want to make it so that if we don’t listen to them, we don’t get to listen to Rush.  Or Laura.  Or Sean.  Or Mark.  Have to listen to both.  

This law might be meaningful and necessary someplace where opposing views were literally shut down by the despots in charge.  A law like this would be a big step toward democracy and liberty.  But we already have that here.  

How would that keep us from hearing the conservative commentators?  (I know some of you are wondering that.)  Again, it’s market-driven.  Take a popular radio station that carries a full lineup of popular hosts, all conservatives.  With the Fairness Doctrine, they would have to get rid of half those hosts, and replace them with left-leaning hosts.  If I didn’t want to listen to Al Franken’s program, I would tune out or to another station while he was on.  (And it’s not that I don’t want to hear other viewpoints, it’s just that I already hear the opposing views on NBC, CBS, the New York Times, and all those other headlines that come up on my home page.)  Ratings would decline, with fewer people hearing the ads.  Which leads to fewer people buying the product.  Which leads an advertiser to look elsewhere for a place to showcase his product.  Which leads to a decline in advertising revenue for the station.  Which ultimately leads to layoffs, cutbacks, and the station finally deciding that for its own survival, it must now change its programming format.

Back to soft rock of the 80’s.

I just can’t help but think that the left-thinkers are just wanting to put a stop to conservative talk radio.  It keeps too many of us informed.

And it really pushes that fairness button of mine.

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