The Hill: GOP Protecting Talk Radio ‘Profits”?


By: Warner Todd Huston

Rush Limbaugh has done it again. He’s driven the left mad. The lies about Limbaugh that Democrat Party House members are promulgating have rekindled talk of the dreaded Fairness Doctrine. And in a piece on the brewing battle between the anti-free speech Democrats and conservative talk radio supporters in the House of Representatives, the Washington newspaper The Hill continually mischaracterizes the debate at hand, trying to make it seem that talk radio supporters are only out to guard radio station’s “profits” when the issue is clearly being fought over free speech, not money. Why would The Hill try to dismiss the conservative position as just about the cash? Why would The Hill so slight the real issue of free speech and government oppression? Of course, the most probable reason is that writer Alexander Bolton’s agenda is to discredit the drive to protect talk radio as much as he can without being too obvious about it. Bolton’s former employer was the lefty journal, The Nation magazine, so we must understand the ideological position from which he hails. But his jabs at talk radio supporters is more heavy handed than he imagines and not nearly as subtle and slick as he thinks it to be.

Take this first paragraph:

House Republicans are threatening to launch a discharge petition on legislation that would ensure the future prosperity of conservative radio talk-show hosts but is expected to face opposition from Democratic leaders. On Monday evening, Republicans filed a rule with the House Rules Committee laying the groundwork for a petition that would force action on protecting radio from government regulation later this fall.

The Republicans are the threatening ones? Here we have a Democrat Party leveling out right lies about what Rush Limbaugh said, but to writer Bolton the Republicans are the “threatening” ones!

And notice his focus? He says, “House Republicans are threatening to launch a discharge petition on legislation that would ensure the future prosperity of conservative radio talk-show hosts.” (my bold for emphasis)

No, Mr. Bolton. The aim is not to protect “prosperity” but to protect freedom of political speech. This is the most premier reason why we HAVE a 1st Amendment right to free speech in the first place. It was political speech the Founders sought to protect above all else. So, no, Mr. Bolton, this is not about money but about one of our most fundamental rights.

Bolton did not use the word “prosperity” in his first paragraph by accident, either. He furthers this theme several times in his slanted piece. Here is what he writes a few paragraphs later:

Conservatives fear that forcing stations to make equal time for liberal talk radio would cut into profits so severely that radio executives would choose to scale back on conservative programming to avoid rising costs and interference from the government.

Mr. Bolton, please give us ONE quote… just ONE… where a supporter of talk radio in the House predicated his complaint against the anti-free speech Democrat Party on the “profits” that talk radio would ostensibly lose were the Fairness Doctrine reinstated.

Then Bolton makes a thinly veiled claim that Limbaugh can attack and destroy at will the careers of individual members of the House if crossed, leading the reader to imagine that Limbaugh has more power than he should somehow be allowed to have.

In their letters, Pence and Walden cited broad support for their bill as well as a vote on an appropriations amendment earlier this year showing that many Democrats are wary of angering politically influential radio personalities such as Limbaugh.

“Wary of angering” radio personalities like Limbaugh? So, according to Bolton, the only Democrat support of the free speech of talk radio must be because they are afraid that Limbaugh will destroy them with his talk radio show?

How absurd of you Mr. Bolton.

And, don’t think I am reading an unmeant motive into Bolton’s piece because he states it even more clearly a few paragraphs later.

Democrats from conservative-leaning districts, such as Brad Ellsworth (Ind.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.), where conservative radio personalities enjoy higher visibility among voters, may face pressure at home to sign such a petition. Doing so would anger Democratic leaders because it would allow Republicans to seize control of the House agenda. At least 17 Democrats must sign a discharge petition to force a vote on the legislation.

So, none of those Democrats would support a free speech movement for ANY reason but for “pressure” from talk radio, huh?

But, even if this were so… so what? The personalities of talk radio are popular because of support from the people. In essence, the “pressure” from talk radio would be pressure from the electorate. Is Mr. Bolton about to tell us that the voice of the people should not be heard? Is Mr. Bolton suggesting that Democrats should not represent their own constituents and should do only what the national Democrat Party dictates?

Not very democratic of you there, Mr. Bolton!

A few more paragraphs later, Bolton returns to his claim that this is all about the money.

Conservatives fear that forcing stations to make equal time for liberal talk radio would cut into profits so severely that radio executives would choose to scale back on conservative programming to avoid rising costs and government interference.

No, Mr. Bolton. That is not the argument at all. The argument that conservatives make is that forcing radio to offer both sides of the political spectrum would end up eliminating the conservative talkers in favor of less informative and milquetoast-like shows. The result would be that politics would end up excised from the airwaves. As happened in the 1980s, the Fairness Doctrine would eviscerate talk radio, not broaden its subject matter. Station owners and programmers would be far more apt to take the easy route and eliminate shows that might cause unwanted scrutiny upon them by the FCC instead of allowing hosts with bold opinions to fill the airwaves. Fear of the FCC would rule their actions, not freedom of speech.

The argument is that oppressive government regulation will have exactly the opposite effect that disingenuous Democrat attack dogs claim it would — and they know that to be a fact, too. Talk radio would not find itself with a broader base of opinion it would find itself eliminated. And the Democrat Party would love that to be the case because the Fairness Doctrine would silence conservatives. They don’t worry about losing a leftist voice. After all, they own the mainstream media already! Their voice would not be silenced at all, only that of their ideological and political enemies.

So, what is the agenda of Mr. Bolton of The Hill newspaper?

I think it is pretty obvious.

He is siding with the anti-free speech Democrat Party in the quest to destroy Rush Limbaugh and talk radio.

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