A growing number of “elites,” including Bill Clinton, are calling for a return of the “fairness doctrine” to talk radio, a sure indication that Congress and the new President will soon be taking on this issue.
Supporters of the “fairness doctrine” are actually evading the only way to achieve true “fairness” in a free society: To come up with a better product.
For several decades now, talented but unsuccessful left-wing broadcasters have attempted to please their audiences on the scale Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and others have pleased theirs. It hasn’t worked. Their product didn’t sell. Nobody listened.
In talk radio, the product for sale is ideas. The left-wing politicians who, up to now, cannot sell their ideas, are now attempting to do the next best thing: Prevent the ideas that DO sell from being offered for sale. They know they can’t openly come out for censorship, so they call for laws and regulations to require broadcasters to do the impossible: To sell what doesn’t sell. In practice, this means either broadcasting what nobody will listen to (at a loss, since there will be no advertisers), or getting rid of the shows and ideas that do sell and replace them with—-you guessed it—the speeches and ideas of politicians who support the “fairness doctrine.”
If a young child loses when playing a game, you’ll sometimes see him throw the game pieces into the air, screaming, “Not fair!” This is the earliest known demand for a “fairness doctrine.” When that child grows up and acquires the power of coercion, watch closely what’s about to emerge in Congress.
As a noteworthy postscript, it will be interesting to see how far the government gets in spreading this blatantly obvious attempt at censorship, lurking behind the feel-good word “fairness.” They’ll probably get what they want on conventional (terrestrial) radio, unless a furious legal battle is waged–and won–by the Rush Limbaughs of the world.
Of course, now the liberal censorship fun begins: What about cable and satellite broadcasts? What about the Internet? Will government go after those too? How would that work and look in practice? Will there be a central server in Washington DC, and everything written for the Internet will have to go through some bureaucrat’s office for approval?
I’d like to hear these politicians defend why it’s constitutional to stifle one area of broadcast, but not another. Indeed, if they think that all forms of human association and contact are subject to government restrictions and control, they should be forced to disclose that opinion. After all, it’s only fair.