One of the phobias that always grips right wing media when a Democrat takes office is that they will put the Fairness Doctrine back into place. The Obama administration confirmed today that they have no intention of restoring the Fairness Doctrine.
About the Fairness Doctrine, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told Fox News.com, “As the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated.” This wave of panic got started when Democrats took control of Congress and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) resumed his personal quest to get the Fairness Doctrine restored. There was never any chance that Obama would do this, but it didn’t stop the right wing chattering class from going into full paranoia mode.
Here is how Rush Limbaugh described the Fairness Doctrine on his show last summer, “Here’s how the Fairness Doctrine works, or used to. I’ll use myself. Let’s apply it as it does today. I talked about the leftists and their environmental wacko agenda. Okay, so how many leftist groups are there in this country that could call every one of my 600-plus radio stations and say, “We don’t like what Limbaugh said, and we need a chance to respond.” So you’ve got 600 general managers at radio stations, “We have to, the law says I gotta put ‘em on here. So you have to put on nonprofessionals, give them some time, they get a chance to answer this stuff, you end up with boring radio, and you end up with a nightmare of logistics.”
The real fear of right wing talkers has nothing to do with free speech, and everything to with boring radio/television. Rush, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Savage, and Fox News are all in the business of providing entertainment to a conservative audience. If they have to provide equal time to the opposition, their programs start to sound more like NPR, which means that listeners would tune out. Without their conservative shtick, these shows are nothing.
What liberals like Waxman overlook is that providing equal time under the Fairness Doctrine cuts both ways. Liberal talkers and hosts like Amy Goodman, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow would also have to provide equal time to conservatives on their programs. Regardless of their political slant these shows are all the same. They entertain while preaching to the choir. The Fairness Doctrine would kill the format.
I believe in free markets. If there is an audience for conservative or liberal shows, then they should be allowed to do their thing unencumbered. This isn’t the 1950s. There is enough media out there to represent all points of view. Over time, the market weeds out the good shows from the bad, and it should never be up to government to tell anyone how what or how they should broadcast or write. Don’t be fooled by the right wing free speech argument. This debate has nothing to do with speech and everything to do with the billion dollar talk radio industry, which the Fairness Doctrine would destroy.