“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” – First Amendment
You’d think that with language as clear as that, Congress would not meddle with freedom of speech, but you’d be wrong. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is planning on resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine of decades past. In a nutshell, the Fairness Doctrine says that radio stations can’t host one political side without giving equal time to the other. That’s only fair, don’t you agree? We don’t want our media to become too lopsided, do we?
Regardless of how you wrap this idea up in nice platitudes, the fact remains that the Fairness Doctrine is Congress making laws restricting and abridging the freedom of speech. If a radio station wants to play all-conservative or all-liberal shows 24/7, that decision should be up to the owners of the station, not Congress.
Besides, why should we grant Congress any say in the playlists of radio stations? Is there any indication the Fairness Doctrine worked before? The Fairness Doctrine caused radio stations to languish during the ’70s and early ’80s. Two things fueled the resurgence of AM radio: the removal of the restrictive Fairness Doctrine in 1987, and the subsequent ascendancy of the Rush Limbaugh show made possible by the vanished Fairness Doctrine. (Whether you like Rush or hate him, he did usher in a new public interest in the talk radio format.) But with the near-complete dominance of talk radio by conservative shows, it is no wonder that the newly-elected Democrat Congress is drooling over the prospect of reanimating the corpse of the old Fairness Doctrine.
You won’t hear Democrats admit openly that they want to oppress conservative talk radio, although that is their goal. Instead you will hear them talk about how unfair it is that only one side of the political spectrum is represented on mostly-conservative talk radio. Liberal talk shows have not met much success in the free marketplace, so Democrats want to try to level the playing field by shackling conservative shows. Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers, call your office.
It’s only fair to follow three hours of the conservative Rush Limbaugh show with three hours of the liberal Randi Rhodes show, right? Well, it depends on what your definition of “equal” is. To be really equal, the three hours of any conservative show with a ten-point market share must be followed by thirty hours of any liberal show with a one-point market share. 3 x 10 = 30 x 1, right? So everyone is happy and everything is fair in the topsy-turvy world of Democrats. Well, except the listeners, the hosts, and the radio station owners who are getting shafted.
Feel free to send Rep. Kucinich a note reminding him that the First Amendment phrase “Congress shall make no law” applies to him and to the Fairness Doctrine. I am.