WASHINGTON – The new “chief diversity officer” for the Federal Communications Commission believes the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” was never repealed and advocates crippling $250 million fines for radio stations whose programming does not meet with the government’s approval, charges the author of a book on the end of free speech in America.
“Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski recently appointed Mark Lloyd, a former senior fellow at the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress, to be the FCC’s ‘chief diversity officer,’” says Brad O’Leary, author of “Shut Up America: The End of Free Speech.” “Lloyd is a proponent of the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ and recently wrote that the doctrine, and other regulatory tools such as localism and diversity mandates, should be employed by the FCC to limit the number of conservative voices on the air and supplant them with liberal voices. He also suggests fining conservative radio stations up to $250 million and giving the proceeds to the government-subsidized Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
O’Leary cites a a paper Lloyd co-authored in 2007 for the Center for American Progress that urges the FCC to “balance” the airwaves through shortened broadcast license terms, diversity mandates and strict localism rules. In that report, Lloyd says the “Fairness Doctrine” was never actually repealed and is still enforceable today.
“First, from a regulatory perspective, the Fairness Doctrine was never repealed,” Lloyd and his colleagues wrote. “The Supreme Court … has never overruled the cases that authorized the FCC’s enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine. Many legal experts argue that the FCC has the authority to enforce it again – thus it technically would not be considered repealed. … Thus, the public obligations inherent in the Fairness Doctrine are still in existence and operative, at least on paper.”
Lloyd goes on to say that the “Fairness Doctrine” was never an effective tool by itself, but rather, was effective as a part of a larger “regulatory structure that limited license terms to three years, subjected broadcasters to license challenges through comparative hearings, required notice to the local community that licenses were going to expire, and empowered the local community through a process of interviewing a variety of local leaders.”
“According to Lloyd, the success of conservative talk radio, and the failure of liberal talk radio, is not because conservative talk radio is more popular with radio listeners, but rather, it is indicative of a market failure in need of a regulatory fix,” says O’Leary. “To limit the number of conservative voices on the air, Lloyd prescribes shortening broadcast license terms from eight to three years, and allowing ‘local community leaders’ and activists to weigh-in on whether or not a station’s license should be renewed. He also proposes creating regulations to increase broadcast ownership diversity ‘both in terms of the race/ethnicity and gender of the owners.’”
Lloyd’s proposal for enforcing these rules is likely to draw even more controversy. According to Lloyd, commercial broadcast owners who do not comply with these regulations would be forced to pay a fine, the proceeds of which would “directly support local, regional, and national public broadcasting.” Lloyd estimates that the fines “would net between $100 million and $250 million” for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which in turn would, according to Lloyd and his colleagues, “cover controversial and political issues in a fair and balanced manner.”
The latest Zogby/O’Leary poll shows 66 percent of American voters oppose efforts by the FCC to force localism and diversity mandates on broadcasters. A large majority of independent voters (75 percent) oppose the mandates, as do 67 percent of young voters age 18 to 29. Even a plurality of those who voted for President Obama (41 percent) oppose the localism and diversity rules, while 39 percent of Obama voters support them. (The poll surveyed 3,937 voters April 24-27 and has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 1.6 percentage points.).
Many top conservative and libertarian radio show hosts have formed a coalition called “Don’t Touch My Dial” to counter what O’Leary calls “censorship efforts by the FCC.” The coalition is chaired by nationally syndicated radio host Roger Hedgecock.
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