There has been much talk about the Left’s attempt to revive a censorship scheme with the Orwellian name, the “Fairness Doctrine.” This principle, a relic from the days when there were only a few hundred radio stations and even fewer television stations, required broadcasters to provide equal time for opposing viewpoints. Besides causing stations to avoid most controversial speech, the doctrine became a tool for silencing the opposition with Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all using the FCC to squash dissent.
In 1987, Ronald Reagan instructed the FCC to stand down. Attempts by Congress to require enforcement were vetoed. Soon, Rush Limbaugh was permanently ensconced behind the golden EIB microphone and talk radio was on the ascent. Conservative and libertarian voices dominated the genre. This new medium was an alternative to the increasingly left-leaning content of television news, entertainment, newspapers, and news magazines. The explosion of the format and the rescue of the AM dial (I worked in AM radio in the mid-late 1980s and it was on life support) was an organic phenomenon. It was a grass roots movement with people making the unforced choice to devote their listening time to hosts who share their values.
Brian Jennings, a pioneering programmer in the genre, warns us that the free will of the people may soon be trampled by powerful political forces. “Censorship” The Threat to Silence Talk Radio” is a clarion call to defenders of free speech. Jennings provides a clear understanding of the media atmosphere before and after the Fairness Doctrine. In addition, Jennings analyzes the reasons for conservative success and liberal failure in the format.
The most alarming revelations involve the currently percolating schemes to silence Conservative talk radio. Some of the plots are emanating from Congress and some in the seedy halls of anti-freedom Leftist organizations such as Media Matters and the Center for American Progress. These fascists will not use the term “Fairness Doctrine.” Instead, they will employ “newspeak” terms such as “localism” and “diversity of ownership” to disguise their desire to repeal the 1st Amendment’s protection of free speech.
The plethora of information sources available today eradicates the concept’s original justification which was a relatively small number of radio outlets and the possibility of a monopoly on news and opinion. Today, there are thousands of radio stations along with network television, cable and satellite television, and the internet. Television, newspapers, and Hollywood remain powerful bastions of Leftist domination. The American taxpayer supports Leftist talk radio: it’s called National Public Radio (NPR). In addition, most of the “morning zoo” radio formats are obvious in their political leanings. Even ESPN-radio announcers regularly let fly with politicized commentary.
The fact remains that the talk radio genre has been a subject of conservative success and Leftist failure. This cannot be. It is obvious that Leftist opinions are heard. They are not lacking communication avenues. That is what is most scary about their anti-freedom campaign. They aren’t fighting to express their opinions. Instead, the Left’s goal is use the government to silence speech with which they disagree.
Make no mistake, free expression is under attack. Without directly banning conservative talk radio, the new Leftist majority on the FCC can easily regulate the format out of existence. Community advisory boards and other “watchdogs” will be used to demand “balance” on the air waves. This, of course, will not apply to television or newspapers. Equal time demands will force station owners to program content that no one wants to hear or to change formats as they lose advertising dollars.
In my opinion, the role of talk radio in the defeat of the immigration amnesty bill in the summer of 2007 was the final straw. The Left already hated talk radio, but the mobilization of citizens to inundate Washington, D.C. with phone calls, faxes, and emails opposing the bill was a reminder that “fly over country” ultimately owns this little experiment called the United States of America. The Left would prefer that ordinary Americans fuss and fume about the government, but feel powerless to stand up to it. Conservative talk radio has served as a defender of the average Joe. Brian Jennings’ “Censorship” is a call to citizens that it is now our time to defend free speech. Arm yourself for the fight.