The Un-Fairness Doctrine

By: Greg C. Reeson

If you were to ask a stranger on the street to name the top talk radio personalities in the country, you would inevitably receive an answer that included the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. The problem with all of them, according to some Democrats, is that they only represent one side of the political spectrum. And, of course, it’s not the side the Democrats prefer the public to hear.

So, in order to level the playing field, many on the left are calling for the return of the so-called Fairness Doctrine to give opposing viewpoints an equal opportunity to be heard by listening audiences. The problem with the Fairness Doctrine, though, is that it’s not really what it claims to be—fair.

There’s little doubt about the assertion that most talk radio programs lean toward conservatism. But there’s a reason for the ever-growing popularity of the Limbaughs and the Hannitys of the airwaves: it’s called the marketplace. Simply put, successful radio programs are the ones that attract advertisers. Period. Limbaugh is the top-rated radio personality in the country because a large segment of the public likes what he has to say. Therefore, they tune in to his show. Advertisers then buy time during his program to pitch their products and services to his audience. If nobody was listening, the advertisers would take their business elsewhere and the Rush Limbaugh show would be but a distant memory. Case in point: Air America.

Leftists like Al Franken tried desperately to make their challenge to conservative talk radio dominance work. But they failed. They failed because their message did not resonate with a large enough segment of the radio listening population to attract the advertisers necessary to fund the programming. Talk radio is just like any other product. You make it attractive to an audience and it sells. If you can’t do that, you’re out of business.

Having failed at radio in the free marketplace, Democrats now want to impose their political ideology and viewpoints on a listening public that has already, for the most part, rejected their opinions. Prominent Democrats like Senator Byron Dorgan and Representative Dennis Kucinich want radio stations to make comparable time available for opposing opinions, regardless of whether or not that programming is profitable to the host stations. Having failed to sell you their message, they now want to force you to listen to it through congressional action.

Now, I’ve had a few people tell me that equal time would ensure that both sides of an issue were presented, thus enabling the listening audience to develop a better informed opinion about a given topic. That’s ridiculous. People who listen to the radio listen to programming that appeals to them. They listen because they like what they hear. What do you suppose a listener will do if he or she disagrees with or dislikes what is on the radio? Odds are that the listener will tune in another program or just stop listening altogether.

The return of the Fairness Doctrine would be nothing more than another government infringement on our ability as citizens to exercise individual choice. By telling us what we will listen to on the radio, Democrats take away our ability to choose what we will listen to on the radio. Democrats who demand equal time under the Fairness Doctrine are keenly aware that they fail at talk radio when it comes to the free exchange of ideas. That is why the leftist agenda must be force-fed to the talk radio listening public, and that is why guys like Dorgan and Kucinich want to use the Fairness Doctrine to take away your ability to tune them out.

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