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The leader of a newly formed public awareness campaign to alert U.S. citizens about an effort to stifle free speech says he expects local “boards” will be assembled within 90 days to begin censoring talk radio, a move that will come as an “Arctic blast” against the expression of opinion in the United States.

WND reported just days ago on a meeting at which more than two dozen principals of the nation’s top talk radio shows held a private strategy meeting to discuss government plans to squelch critical political speech on radio.

Organized by Brad O’Leary, author of the new book, “Shut Up, America! The End of Free Speech,” and Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND, the group chose one attendee to be spokesman and chairman of the coalition – syndicated host Roger Hedgecock of San Diego.

The American Radio Free Speech Foundation was adopted as the name, and leaders now have announced a public awareness campaign and educational initiative, called Don’t Touch My Dial.

The announcement said the U.S. now is facing “an insidious attack on its First Amendment Rights that is being cloaked in legislation and regulation evidenced by the recently circulated draft FCC regulations … to impose ‘localism’ and ‘media ownership diversity’ on talk radio.”

“In addition, under the guise of ‘cyberspace security,’ Sens. Rockefeller, Snowe and Nelson have introduced S773 which would, critics say, give the federal government control over the Internet including, under emergency conditions, the right of the president to shut down the whole Internet or sites on it, including the interruption of e-mail,” the announcement said.

“When the public is informed about what is happening behind the
scenes to threaten their First Amendment rights, they will be
outraged. As shown in a recent poll that was commissioned by the
coalition and is part of the ‘Zogby/O’Leary Report’s First 100
Days Poll’ when 3,937 voters from the last election were asked: ‘Four members of the U.S. Senate recently introduced a bill that would allow the president of the United States to turn off the Internet nationally in the event of an emergency, however the Bill does not DEFINE what constitutes an emergency. Do you support or oppose this bill?’” the announcement said.

It’s time to put up or shut up, America. Literally. Get the book that shows how to fight the assault on your freedom of speech!

Nearly 82 percent opposed the idea. Only 5 percent agreed with it.

Hedgecock told WND that most people simply don’t understand what the government appears to be demanding.

“I think the FCC is on the cusp of enacting regulations that would fundamentally alter the traditional American assumption that we have the right to share and debate political opinions,” he said.

“I believe the strategy is to make the current state of compliant journalism that prevails in the mainstream media the norm as well on the Internet and in talk radio,” he said.

And it’s coming soon.

“I think in the next 90 days we will see the imposition of the local advisory boards. They will immediately become complaint departments staffed by the Left on all local and nationally syndicate talk programs,” Hedgecock warned.

The underlying threat, of course, would be to the license the business needs to operate as a radio station.

“The threats of those complaints to the viability of the underlying station licenses will be immediate and will force corporations that own these stations into a very defensive posture,” he said.

“Talk about a chilling effect on free speech, this will be an Arctic blast of restraint on opinion based on the threat to take the license away,” Hedgecock said.

But talk radio will be just the first target, he said.

“The assault on the First Amendment that is being planned by the
government and the extremist Left is not limited to their desire
to silence conservative talk radio,” he said. “Newspapers and television are not immune to the anti-First
Amendment efforts that are at work here. In addition, the
Internet is also a target for receiving the restrictive aspects
of the so-called ‘Fairness Doctrine.’”

Just weeks ago, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., submitted an amendment to the D.C. Voting Bill which would require the FCC to “encourage and promote diversity in … media ownership” and reaffirm FCC authority to mandate the presentation “of opposing points of view on issues of public importance.”

Also of concern to the hosts and producers gathered in the nation’s capital was a decision last week by Clear Channel, the nation’s largest owner of radio stations, to mandate the creation of local advisory boards by June at all of its properties. The move was seen as pre-emptive as the industry anticipates an FCC stacked with Barack Obama appointees will soon require stations to answer to panels of community activists.

In February, the FCC floated several proposals to require stations to better serve local communities, including establishing community advisory boards to consult stations on programming.

“We are materially increasing our commitment to community programming, increasing our accountability and broadening our public-service contributions in every local market we serve,” said John Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Clear Channel. “We believe when radio focuses on servicing local communities, it is radio at its finest.”

Other key members of the group so far include Lars Larson, Rusty Humphries, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, Steve Gill, Martha Zoller, Joyce Kaufman and Kirby Wilbur.

The public awareness campaign website includes a petition campaign to protest the developing limits. It also describes the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” explains what it does to free speech and quotes a number of experts on the subject.

“Rather than having the government regulate what people can say, we should let the market decide what people want to hear. That’s precisely why the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned, and that’s why it ought not to be revived,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in a commentary critical of the plan.

“This fight is a First Amendment fight and one that every American must be involved with, which is why we have created ‘Don’t Touch My Dial’ as a vehicle for mass participation,”

Hedgecock said.

Hedgecock also is chairman for Unfair Air, an effort to to protect First Amendment Rights as they pertain to radio and radio audiences.

WND founder and editor Joseph Farah launched a petition campaign months ago to block federal government attacks on freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

“This issue – and the urgent need for a broad-based, aggressive coalition to fight back – is much bigger than talk radio, and much more dangerous than an effort to simply silence a few voices that the current administration dislikes,” says Hedgecock. “This fight is a First Amendment fight and one that every American must be involved with, which is why we have created ‘Don’t Touch My Dial’ as a vehicle for mass participation.”


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