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Steve Lunetta: Don't bring back 'The Fairness Doctrine'

Posted: June 21, 2009 10:09 p.m.
Updated: June 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.
"It's just not fair." As the parent of any teenager knows, these words are often used by a child whenever a perceived injustice has occurred in their lives.

For most teens, this simply means that they did not get their way. You could have the wisdom and patience of Solomon, but you would still be labeled as "unfair" if Junior does not get a new pair of shoes, movie tickets, or the latest cell phone with eight-way texting.

Sadly, we often hear liberals scream that something is "unfair" when they don't get exactly what their petulant little heart desires.

Take talk radio, for example.

For many years, talk radio has been dominated by conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levine, Fred Thompson, and Michael Reagan.

In fact, it was Rush Limbaugh that piloted the genre when the Fairness Doctrine was removed by the FCC in 1987.

The Fairness Doctrine requires that broadcasters present controversial topics of public importance in a fair, equitable, and balanced manner.

Created in 1949, the law went through several challenges until the FCC decided to drop the whole thing in the late 1980s. This opened the door to conservative talk radio.

What Rush discovered was that there was a huge, repressed, conservative audience that was looking for information and entertainment.

This exercise of free speech on the radio was immensely popular and remains so today.

Of course, liberals hate the idea of conservative talk radio. The ideas, information, and expression of free thought is antithetical to the liberal belief that everyone should think like they do.

It's simply "not fair" that conservatives get this air time and they don't.

Hence, the Fairness Doctrine. In practical application, the Doctrine requires that if a radio station broadcasts Rush for three hours, they are required to broadcast a liberal talk show host for three hours.

Seems reasonable. There is only one problem. No one listens to liberal talk radio.

Numerous attempts have been made to create liberal talk stations and shows.

The collapse of Al Franken and Air America are the most notable examples. Today, there are fewer than 100 U.S. commercial radio stations carrying liberal talk programs compared to 600 for Rush alone.

Many have speculated as to why liberalism does not play well on the radio.

Liberals don't seem to listen to the radio much. Radio is often listened to when working or driving to work in a car. I guess that's it - conservatives go to work and liberals ... well, you get the picture.

So far, the Obama Administration does not support the return of the Fairness Doctrine. However, his cohorts in Congress do not feel the same way.

Our own Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in June of last year was quoted as saying that her fellow Representatives did not want to forbid the reintroduction of the Doctrine.

In fact, when asked directly if she supports the revival of the Fairness Doctrine, good ol' Nancy said "Yes" (, Gizzi, June 25, 2008).

As late as February of this year, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in the Senate was asked by Bill Press whether it was time to bring back the doctrine. She said, "I think it's absolutely time to pass a standard.

Now, whether it's called the Fairness Standard, whether it's called something else, I absolutely think it's time to bring accountability to the airwaves."

When asked what actions she was taking, Stabenow replied, "I have already had discussions with colleagues and, you know, I feel like it's going to happen. Yep." (WorldNetDaily, Feb. 5, 2009.)

Chilling. This liberal, Democrat Congress feels that there is a lack of "accountability" on the airwaves and they are going to put a stop to it. Forget Free Speech. This amounts to a muzzling of the right.

Why is that? A radio station must make money to stay in business. If the station is forced to air programming to create a "balanced" view and no one listens, they cannot get advertising revenue.

This will force the removal of programs like Rush and Hannity because the stations cannot afford to take the financial hit by airing liberal shows that no one cares about.

Instead, stations will play easy listening soft rock and cooking shows. Conservatives and the right will be silenced.

However, there is a way to fight back and save our free speech rights. The Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009 (S. 34), written by Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) with Congressmen Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), is an attempt to block the Fairness Doctrine from ever being imposed by the FCC again.

The bill has been considered in committee and has been recommended for consideration by the Senate as a whole.

Although it has been placed on the calendar of business, the order of the consideration is determined by the majority party leadership (, April 30, 2009).

Don't let free speech be crushed under the iron jackboot of liberal "political correctness" and "fairness."

Contact Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and encourage them to support the Broadcaster Freedom Act.

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" runs Mondays in The Signal.


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