Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Fairness

The Fairness Doctrine was a 1949 FCC regulation, not a law. When some in congress tried to give it a new name and make it a law, Reagan vetoed it in 1987. It came up again in 1993 and congress did not endorse it. Despite Nancy Pelosi’s pandering to the Christian Science Monitor on the topic, or George Will's sweeping generality in the Post that "liberals have been unable to dent conservatives' dominance" of talk radio, the doctrine is rather problematic under the Constitution's First Amendment. What I failed to point out is that Rush Limbaugh understands self-promotion. The election loss by his candidate and the Alaskan rube Rush idolizes demonstrates that conservative talk radio has little influence.

Augie Grant, PhD, a former radio colleague of mine, wrote of my posting “individuals on talk radio (on all sides of the political spectrum) are guilty of gross misrepresentation. Some is simple hyperbole, but there are enough outright falsehoods that intelligent people can't help but wonder whether there is a better option. Personally, I would like to hear that owners and hosts are willing to consider ‘truth’ as a value, but I'm not holding my breath. Perhaps the audience will wise up and leave the blowhards behind, but conflict is much more entertaining than rational discussion.”

“There is little question that the Fairness Doctrine stifled speech,” Augie also wrote. “In practice, it led to the idea that an issue has only two sides, an argument that is as naive as it is limiting. In a lecture on our campus (University of South Carilina) last week, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard was asked about the Fairness Doctrine and shot back that liberals had their own voice on talk radio: NPR.”

To which another former radio colleague, John Posey, wrote that “the reason to go to NPR as an alternative - TRUTH.... regardless of your political persuasion. I never feel as though I have to shower after listening to NPR.” John also wrote “I have issues with the Fairness Doctrine and do not want to stifle anyone's speech. I've listened to left and right talk and don't care for either for the very reasons Augie (above) . . . presented. I do believe that Limbaugh and Hannity have a certain self-serving, self-promoting, invective-spewing quality and have taken ‘pathological’ to new levels. That being said, the problem is not the shrieking of Rush and Hannity per se, it's the vast number of ‘followers’ who believe every word they say.”

That hardly seems fair.

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