On-the-air comments by a Democratic senator looking to bring back the Fairness Doctrine are sparking new fears the voices of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage could be silenced if Democrats control the White House and Congress.
Speaking on Albuquerque station KKOB, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., told host Jim Villanucci,”I would want this station and all stations to have to present a balanced perspective and different points of view, instead of always hammering away at one side of the political [spectrum].”
Instituted in 1949 when radio ruled the airwaves, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to allot airtime for controversial public matters, as well as time for opposing viewpoints. It was repealed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan’s Federal Communications Commission, leading to an explosion in the numbers of talk shows and hosts.
Bingaman said when the doctrine was in effect, “there were a lot of talk stations that seemed to do fine.”
“For many, many years, we operated under a Fairness Doctrine in this country. I think the country was well-served. I think the public discussion was at a higher level and more intelligent in those days than it has become since.”
Limbaugh, the most-listened to radio host in American history, blasted Bingaman’s comment that there were “a lot of talk stations” before 1987.
“A hundred twenty-five radio stations talking about carrot cake recipes for the holidays,” Limbaugh said. “Senator Bingaman, do you know how many talk-radio stations there are in America today? Try over 2,000 since the Fairness Doctrine was lifted, and on those 2,000 radio stations are countless points of view, from the extreme communist left to the wacko whatever it is way out on the fringe right. They’re all over the place.”
Limbaugh said it was clear that Bingaman “wants all of this kind of conservative talk, because it’s effective, shut down.”
Brian Maloney, who runs the Radio Equalizer blog, stated:
If enacted, the Fairness Doctrine (which is anything but) would create logistical nightmares for radio programmers, leading quickly to shuttered stations. The need to “balance” every viewpoint presented would also destroy the entertainment value of talk radio, driving away the audience.
With most major operators currently in deep financial trouble for unrelated reasons, these new restrictions on free speech could represent the final blow for the commercial broadcasting industry.
Even when confronted with the fact that Albuquerque is home to conservative and liberal commercial outlets, as well as public and satellite radio offerings, Bingaman still indicated he would support the move to silence talk radio.
In August, a poll by Rasmussen Reports found 47 percent of Americans
believe the government should require stations to “balance” the
political viewpoint expressed over the airwaves.
Rasmussen found, however, 71 percent say it is already possible for just about any political view to be heard in today’s media.
President Bush believes the so-called Fairness Doctrine is “Orwellian” and disagrees with its very concept.
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has expressed his opposition to bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, and an Obama aide told Broadcasting and Cable magazine in June that the debate is “a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible.”