The Fairness Doctrine: Revenge for Air America's Failure

The Fairness Doctrine, the law that effectively put the kibosh on political talk radio for a number of years, might be coming back if congressional Democrats have their way. According to Fred Thompson, this turn of events was prompted in part by the failure of Air America radio:

The real issue here is not what you “can” see or hear — which is what the Fairness Doctrine was about originally. It’s what you’re “choosing” to see or hear.

Insiders say it was the collapse of the radio station “Air America” that led to this attempt to retool the Fairness Doctrine as a form of de facto censorship. I guess the idea is that, if you can’t compete in the world of ideas, you pass a law that forces radio stations to air your views. In effect, it would force a lot of radio stations to drop some talk show hosts — because they would lose money providing equal airtime to people who can’t attract a market or advertisers.

The funny thing is that the success of the current crop of radio talk show hosts is due, in part, to a lot of people’s perception that broadcast television doesn’t give the views of their audience a fair shake. Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, since I dabble in radio myself, but this media used to be viewed as a kind of broadcast ghetto. The bicoastal elite had such a grip on the major newspapers and television networks; they pretty much ignored the hinterlands. It was media flyover country.

Now congressional leaders say they want to “level the playing field” there too — meaning they want to diminish the importance of conservative talk radio. In other words, they don’t trust the results of freedom and the marketplace. Why am I not surprised?

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013