David Brock, the embattled founder of Media Matters for America, once teamed up with the progressive radio company that developed, produced and launched the national career of Ed Schultz to call for the re-institution of the Fairness Doctrine.
The now defunct company that launched Schultz’s national show, Democracy Radio Inc., was founded in 2002 by former Democratic congressional staffer Tom Athans, who at the time was married to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Athans laid out his vision for his company while speaking to the New York Times is 2003.
“We’re going to go out and identify talent and help them to create programming and actually connect them with local stations,” Athans told the Times. “We want to plant a thousand seeds and see how many flowers actually arise.”
In the same Times article, titled “Outflanked Democrats Wonder How to Catch Up in Media Wars,” progressive strategist John Podesta was quoted explaining how radio can be used to get out the progressive message.
“Across the board, we need to muscle up,” said Podesta, at the time a former Bill Clinton staffer and a law professor at Georgetown University.
“That means from the congressional operations to the party committees to the think-tank world to, most significantly, beefing up our capacity to communicate with the public in all forms of media, not just through obscure Internet websites but on television and radio.”
Podesta would soon go on to found the Center for American Progress, which became highly influential in helping to craft President Obama’s White House policy. Podesta himself co-directed Obama’s White House transition team.
Podesta’s center reportedly entered into a fundraising-sharing agreement to launch Media Matters for America.
Media Matters has come under fire in recent days for unusual tactics, including compiling a de facto enemies list; announcing an all-out campaign of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” aimed at the Fox News Channel; and reportedly seeking to investigate the personal lives of targeted reporters and news personalities.
In 2005, Media Matters founder David Brock and his group joined forces with Athans’ Democracy Radio and Andrew Schwartzman of the progressive Media Access Project to author a petition calling for the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine.
Brock, Athans and Schwartzman reportedly even launched a website, fairnessdoctrine.com, for the petition.
“Tired of imbalanced political discourse on our airwaves?” Brock personally asked readers in a petition appeal. “Media Matters for America has joined with Democracy Radio and the Media Access Project in calling on Congress to restore the Fairness Doctrine.”
A former policy of the Federal Communications Commission, the Fairness Doctrine required the holders of broadcast licenses to give equal time to opposing viewpoints, which effectively made political talk radio unsustainable for any local station.
Critics charge the Fairness Doctrine is as an attempt to regulate news and talk radio that violates First Amendment rights.
Brock at the time was trying to draw support for a bill by Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter to create a new Fairness Doctrine.
“By restoring a diversity of fact and opinion to programming,” Brock continued, “Fairness Doctrine legislation restores a concept that has been lost since the 1980s – that because the public owns the airwaves, the public is entitled to be adequately informed by the broadcasters of news and opinion.”
Schultz, meanwhile, served for more than 10 years as a talk radio host in Fargo, N.D. He has described himself as a “gun-toting Democrat.”
“I’m the worst thing that has ever happened to the conservatives,” he said on MSNBC. “I hunt and fish. They don’t know what to do with me.”
It was Democrat money that reportedly launched Schultz’s national radio career via Athans’ Democracy Radio, which was created for the purpose of the new progressive radio venture.
Athans and Schultz held a fundraiser to launch the radio show. The event was held in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s home in Washington, D.C., in October 2003.
Roll Call, the Capitol Hill publication, reported on the fundraising event, relating, “With the help of Democratic lawmakers, a progressive radio outfit plans to launch a national talk show in January, the first step by a liberal organization to gain a presence in a medium dominated by conservatives in recent years.”
Attendees as the event to launch Schultz included Hillary Clinton and former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.
A member of the board of advisers of Athans’ Democracy Radio was Todd Webster, who previously served as Daschle’s communications director and spokesman.