The Fairness Doctrine

I have mentioned the Fairness Doctrine on several occasions. But, I wanted to take the time to elaborate on the topic.

The Fairness Doctrine was a Government regulation enacted in 1949 and repealed in 1987. Basically, it gave the FCC the power to “balance” the political viewpoints that are broadcast on the radio. For instance, if a right-wing talk show host such as Rush Limbaugh (the main target of the Fairness Doctrine) has three hours of air time, an opposing left-wing radio host must be given three hours of air time.

However, there are two major problems with this. The Fairness Doctrine flies directly in the face of the free market and the First Amendment.

Let’s look first at its violation of the free market. Radio stations are like any other business in a free market. They produce a product and offer it for sale. Of course it doesn’t cost anything to listen to the radio, so what are they selling? Advertising. Companies buy advertising spots based on the popularity of the particular radio station. The popularity of the radio station is decided by their ratings (i.e. number of listeners). How do they get good ratings? They offer programming that people want to listen to. So, that is their product.

So, how does the Fairness Doctrine interfere with this? It has been proven time and time again that left-wing radio shows are not marketable. The general public that listens to talk radio is not interested in listening to Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, or Randi Rhodes. They have their niche markets. But, their shows fail on a national scale.

Air America went bankrupt because its shows did not generate successful ratings. Advertisers weren’t buying what Air America was selling. It didn’t provide a good product, so it failed. That’s how the free market works.

But, leftists have never been a fan of the free market, so they resort to their most powerful weapon. They use the power of Government to rescue them.

The Fairness Doctrine would essentially force radio stations to broadcast these talk shows that have been rejected by the national audience. It would force them to buy failed products.

Fairness Doctrine supporters like Dennis Kucinich love to say that the Fairness Doctrine protects the “public airwaves.” They believe that the taxpayers own the airwaves. Thus, the public’s best interest is served when the Government “balances” what is broadcast.

Uhh…what? How does the public own the airwaves? What document did we sign that gives us that ownership? What taxes have we paid that make the airwaves possible? Airwaves are not owned by anyone. It’s kind of like owning oxygen. You can’t.

So, does the public own the radio towers which harness the air waves? No. Private radio stations own those. Do we own the buildings where the broadcasts are made? No. Again, private radio stations own those. So, how do we own them?

We don’t. Radio stations own the means to harness those intangible airwaves via their radio towers. It is their property. They can broadcast whatever they want. We own the radio receivers. We can listen to whatever we want. Amazing, isn’t it?

Now, let’s also look at the Fairness Doctrine’s violation of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.

1. To reduce the length of; condense.
2. To cut short; curtail.

In a 24 hour day, talk radio schedules are chalked full of right-wing talk shows and a few left-wing talk shows. Without a doubt, the right-wing talk shows are much more prevalent due to their popularity and marketability.

Let’s just assume, on a given day, that the ratio of right-wing shows to left-wing shows is 5:1. If the Fairness Doctrine was enacted, what happens to that ratio? It becomes 5:5 (or 1:1). Wait a minute. What happened to the other 4 right-wing shows? The FCC would either cut them short to make time for a left-wing counterpart, or they would cease being broadcast all together.

Currently, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity (the #1 and #2 talk show hosts in the country, respectively) each have 3 hour shows. But, there is only so much time in the broadcast day. In order to make room for left-wing talk shows, their broadcasts would have to be cut in half.

Ergo, their speech is being abridged by a Government regulation.

The reality is, if the Fairness Doctrine was enacted, talk radio would lose much of its luster. Failed left-wing talk shows would be forced into markets where they were previously rejected. Talk radio ratings would drop, as they did with Air America. Advertising dollars would slow down, and radio broadcasters would turn to less controversial radio such as home-fix-it or gardening shows. It would be a return to the AM radio days of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

That is the true plan of politicians like Kucinich. They know that the Fairness Doctrine would destroy talk radio, not “balance” it. That is their true goal.

Leftists can’t beat Limbaugh, Hannity, and Boortz in the free market. So, they use the Government to do their dirty work.

It’s disgusting.


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