THE NOT-SO-FAIRNESS DOCTRINE
The Left’s Crusade Against Conservative Media
By Jason Piland
To be frank, Barack Obama’s new administration has done more in its first month to harm our country than I expected for the duration of his term. His presence in Washington has excited everyone on the Left and has emboldened the Democratically-controlled House and Senate. Taking the president’s electoral victory as a carte-blanche license to push full-steam ahead on various legislative items, Democratic lawmakers have begun introducing bills that would not have been discussed under Bush’s administration. This is NOT a new kind of politics.
While no one has introduced a bill in the 111th Congress (probably because bailouts have been continuously debated for weeks on end), rumors are circulating about the introduction of a new Fairness Doctrine. Originally, the Fairness Doctrine stated that every radio station must give equal time to opposing opinions in its political programming. The rationale behind the rule was that all radio stations have an obligation to the public to present news that is unbiased and useful for everyone, and must take into account the limited amount of airwave space in a day. After nearly forty years, the original Fairness Doctrine was ruled unconstitutional in 1987, and the FCC stated that “the enforcement of [the Fairness Doctrine] restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters . . . [and] actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues.”
The FCC actually got it right: not only does this law clearly violate First Amendment rights to free speech by censoring the press, but it ironically kills all variety and creativity in journalism by imposing immense restrictions on broadcasters. Reinstating a new version of the Fairness Doctrine would be an unconstitutionally and horrifically disabling mistake.
But this raises a question: why do Congressional Democrats want to pass a new Fairness Doctrine in the first place? They intend to shut down talk show giants like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. They want to regulate the radio so that they have a better chance of silencing dissent. President Obama recently said, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.” In short, he fears conservative ideology and refuses to enter into a real, honest debate with conservatives. Instead of discussing the merits of conservatism, the Left proposes to dilute it or ignore it, canning it as “the failed policies of the last eight years” or reiterating the mantra “I won.”
Free markets are a cornerstone of conservative thought. In most cases, we apply the concept to economics, but we can apply it to the media too. What did conservatives do when the liberals took over the largest media outlets? Did we try to shut down CNNor the New York Times? Did we ask the government to give us free access to their viewers and subscribers? No! We simply followed the demand and created our own conservative news access points. Today, the demand is increasing tremendously for conservative media as ratings for the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity demonstrate. This demand frightens power-hungry liberals.
Within the past year, several Congressmen and Congresswomen have vocalized their support for a new Fairness Doctrine: Sen. Bigaman (D-NM), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-VT) and Rep. Eshoo (D-CA). In a recent interview with radio host and WND.com columnist Bill Press, Sen. Stabenow (D-MI) expressed her explicit support for a new Fairness Doctrine. With a new president in office, and enough radical leftists behind him in Congress, I would not be surprised if the government considered new regulations in the coming year.
While the Fairness Doctrine is fundamentally flawed, practical concerns present major problems too. People always assume there are two differing points of view to consider. But, in politics, there are often more than two opinions on one matter. Technically and legalistically, every point of view should have equal time; from the Greens and Libertarians, Socialists and Constitutionalists, to the Communists and Nazis, everyone gets equal radio time under the Fairness Doctrine! This notion is ridiculous. Actually proving to the government a station fulfilled all the requirements would become another bureaucratic headache and impose an unfair burden on privately-owned entities.
Media consumers like you and me are not stupid. Sure, some media are liberal, and some are conservative, but is this problematic? The American people know that when they read an article, listen to the radio, or watch the nightly news, they can immediately identify the bias, remove it, and interact with information in meaningful ways. Each of us does that every day, whether watching the news or listening to a professor’s lecture. In the end, it comes down to preference. Olbermann or O’Reilly? For me (and a lot of other Americans), I’ll stick with O’Reilly. I hope the government lets me.
Jason Piland is a sophomore Music Business major.