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Right Wing Broadcasters Fear Any Return To The Fairness Doctrine

Right wing broadcasters including those of the Religious Right have been campaigning against any possible return to the Fairness Doctrine which once allowed equal time for opposing views on controversial subjects. Many right wing broadcasters fear that many TV or radio stations will simply choose to drop their programs if the stations are forced to provide free equal time for opposing viewpoints at the expense of the station.

Currently religious broadcaster, Evangelist Rod Parsley is airing a 30 minute special broadcast of his BREAKTHROUGH program attacking any return to the Fairness Doctrine. However, the only problem is that no one in the 110th Congress has even bothered to introduce any legislation to reintroduce the Fairness Doctrine. Like many right wing issues, they create a huge hysteric uproar over some dead issue and invoke fear and raise a lot of donations. Parsley is currently asking for gifts of up to $1,000 from his listeners to fight this piece of legislation which no one has even introduced.

And Parsley even claims that the next president could simply order a return to the Fairness Doctrine with a stroke of his pen, yet in all truth and honesty, Parsley has to know that this is not how law making in Washington works. A president is not some king would can issue unlimited executive orders on any issue they favor or support. The role of executive orders is of course very limited.

Parsley is unfortunately much like many right wing broadcasters who have abused the public airwaves by making outrageous attacks on persons in the Gay community, played fast and loose with facts, used the airwaves to raise obscene amounts of money by using outrageous fear tactics, or blatantly misrepresented some controversial issues. It is just this sort of ethics that did influence Congressman Maurice Hinchey in the previous 109th Congress to attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine, however the legislation went nowhere, largely because of negative Supreme Court decisions regarding the Fairness Doctrine since 1984, and the FCC officially ending any return to the Fairness Doctrine 1n 1987.

With the major decisions against the Fairness Doctrine by both the Supreme Court and FCC, it is highly unlikely that it will ever become law ever again. Yet this doesn't prevent some like Parsley trading in fear about the Fairness Doctrine, especially when it makes another good reason to ask donors to send in $1,000.

The right wing is often expert at creating some phony hysteria and then raising a lot of money with some absurd campaign against some phony bogeyman issue. However, it certainly looks like the Fairness Doctrine has actually been dead for quite some long time, and any attempt to revive it doomed to fail. Yet in the right wing world of creating fear and profiting from those fears, campaigning against some long dead issue seems good enough to ask for donations and to rule the airwaves by fear.

Sometimes it seems like outside of ignorance and fear, many right wing broadcasters have very little to offer. But that's hardly any good reason to censor them. In a free society even the very worst of free speech should be able to exist without government controls. Most intelligent persons can see bad speech for the absurd self-parody mess it really is, and in the marketplace of ideas the worst some speech is, the worst it usually sells. This indeed proves that the marketplace seems to work better than government.

Yet, you only have to scratch your head when some overweight prescription drug abuser like a Rush Limbaugh is handed a new $400 million dollar radio contract. The wisdom of the marketplace is good at discriminating between the good and the awful, but certainly not perfect at it.

Some of what right wing broadcasters promote is ignorance, and some is just simply lies. And sometimes it would seem very good for some outrageous right wing broadcasters to allow for some equal time responses to some of their nonsense they peddle. Yet it doesn't seem like the American way for government to mandate it.

Government's role regulating free speech needs to be as limited as possible. The freedom allowed under the 1st Amendment isn't always attractive, yet to limit free expression is always the worst possible option.


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Comments (5)

Allen:

Paul, you said: "The freedom allowed under the 1st Amendment isn't always attractive, yet to limit free expression is always the worst possible option.

All of the amendments are not giving us our rights, it is recognizing our rights as American citizens. There is a big difference between giving and recognizing our rights. Try and get it correct. Just like we are a republic, not a democracy. And it's time we go back to being a REPUBLIC!

ke_future:

Just because nobody authored a Fiarness Doctrine bill, doesn't mean that a lot of folks on the left haven't been talking about it. You just have to go to places like DailyKos and look at their archives to see that.

And every single person who is talking in support of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, want it because conservative talk radio has been successful, and liberal talk radio sucks.

Yet again, the so-called tolerant left shows their true colors. Tolerance of those who agree with the leftist agenda, and silence for those that don't.

Oyster:

"The right wing is often expert at creating some phony hysteria and then raising a lot of money with some absurd campaign against some phony bogeyman issue."

Hey, good thing to know that the 2005 congressional bill (H.R. 501) put forward with 23 co-sponsors is just a bunch of boogeymen imaginings. And in '07 Feinstein, Durbin and Kerry called again for the fairness doctrine to be re-instated or at least re-examined. Nice to know they're just boogeymen. But hey, they've still got until January 3, 2009 to squeak it in before the 111th Congress convenes.

I'm greatly concerned when government attempts to abridge any part of the Bill Of Rights myself, even while misguidely seeking to address some perceived problem. I don't think that mainstream broadcast conservatives such as the George Will's or Larry Elder's really concern some critics, it's those who use the airwaves to promote prejudice, hatred or use the airwaves for money making donation scams of little old ladies, and this is why some have suggested a return to the Fairness Doctrine to help to curb some of these abuses. However, in the latest Congress, no one has even introduced such legislation as a return to the Fairness Doctrine, and hopefully enough civil libertarians exist to prevent a return to such a standard.

The problem seems to be that some right wing religious broadcasters use their programs to promote an agenda of prejudice against the Gay community or other right wing broadcasters focus on immigration or racial issues in a particurly nasty manner, and have generated a flood of angry letters to the FCC or Congress to address these abuses. Some like Rev. John Hagee, a defrocked Assemblies Of God minister who started his own church, Cornerstone, has used langauge like "degenerates" to refer to the Gay community. And I personally know of one right wing broadcaster use regulraly uses the "N" word to refer to African Americans while at home and with his friends. And some like Rod Parsley remind a person more of some absurd professional wrestling skit, when he does his over-the-top performances or appeals for donations for some issues. Compared to any responsible religious broadcasters or mainline conservative broadcasters, these clowns give broadcasting a bad name.

But I still don't believe that the Fairness Doctrine is a really a very good way to address these abuses because it would force networks to provide equal time everytime one of these crackpots says something crazy that offends someone, likely forcing many networks to simply drop these programs. This would create a form of censorship.

The problem always seems to be when some promote something awful in the name of free speech, that government attempts to find some draconian way to control that speech. A good example is always the legal issue of obscenity. Some publish some tasteless stuff, and some in government feel that too much of that material exists, so they respond first with $50 fines for some outrageous book or film like during the 1960's, then by the 70's when that fails to control that material, then fines grow into $10,000 or more dollars. Today, fines can run into the millions and tasteless material can be charged under racketeering in many states and the federal government, yet tasteless material still flourishes on the Internet and elsewhere, largely because there is a market for it. Why does such material still flourish despite draconian laws meant to dry up the supply of such material? It's because there is a strong public demand for such material that some still take the legal risks to publish controversial things, and a series of court decisions have moved the old line of what constituted obscenity considerably since even the 1970's. Much of what was considered as "hardcore" in the 1970's is now viewed as constitutionally protected in most U.S. communities, leaving only a smaller grey area in more conservative areas as subject to prosecution.

Right wing radio is unfortunately quite similar to obscenity. Some of the most outrageous performers draw some of the biggest audiences, because the material is so far out there, and many want to hear what these outrageous personalities will do next. It's a form of political shock-jock broadcasting. But many become offended by attacks on the Gay community or racial minority groups, where some may feel that this form of hate speech may even fuel violence or other antisocial acts.

But my question is how should government address those who use the public airwaves to promote prejudice or for donation scams and still preserve the 1st Amendment?

Outrageous political liberals have largely stayed away from broadcast radio or have done poorly at it. Generally some like a Michael Moore prefer to produce some slanted movie documentary instead. And since they have avoided attacks on minority groups like some right wing broadcasters, there has been less of a public outcry against them. A Michael Moore film attacking the big HMOs for providing crappy health care to those enrolled in such programs just doesn't evoke the same sort of public anger as when some outrageous right wingers use the public airwaves for race baiting, etc.

Oyster:

Paul, there are so many sources of news and information available that the fairness doctrine cannot be justified as "in the interests of the public".

Do you have trouble finding a liberal point of view on the internet? On cable news? On local television? In newspapers? There is no doubt that talk radio is the target of this agenda as demonstrated by your own complaints. And your complaints are "right-wingers".

Does it even occur to you that every time someone brings up the fairness doctrine the target of their scorn is AM radio and Fox News? The names that always come up are Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, etc. Never Rhodes, Franken, Matthews, Olberman, etc. I've never heard a single person claim that the New York Times needs balance. Never have I heard a single person advocating the fairness doctrine say that Air America needs a balance. Liberal news sources and opinion reach a far greater audience than conservative-leaning sources. Liberal opinion dominates cable news and print by huge ratios.

The fairness doctrine was instituted because their were so few news outlets. Their was no 24 hour cable news. There weren't that many radio stations. There was no internet. While the fairness doctrine was in effect talk radio avoided controversial topics. History tells us that the fairness doctrine stifled more speech than its stated purpose to "provide balance". Johnson and Kennedy used it to suppress the opposition and forced the radio stations to provide free airtime. The Supreme Court even agreed that it stifled healthy debate and free speech.

So don't feign naiveté in pretending that the fairness doctrine is being pushed because of some fictitious concern to suppress religious "bilkers" or to curb "hate-speech". If that were the case, there are far, far more people sitting in the pews listening to name calling and race baiting, by white and black alike, and forking over their cash.

I think Michael Savage is an idiot, I listen to Rush or Hannity once in a great while to remind me how single minded some can be. Even they get it right often enough though. You now what I do most of the time? I change the station! I like those shows better when they have guest hosts. But the beautiful thing is, I have options and there's not a single law out there that says you can't start your own liberal radio show.

One man put it quite nicely recently (I'll have to paraphrase as I can't find the link):

Do our representatives have the faith that we can accept the responsibility to govern ourselves? Or do they think they need to control the information we get?

They're not interested in the truth. They're interested in the message and we all know the truth and the message are often never introduced to one another.

You may be happy with our representatives dictating what information we get, but I'm not.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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