Fairness Doctrine Is Exactly What The Right Needs

November 12, 2008 · Filed Under Barack Obama, Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, Media 

The second best thing that could have happened to right wing talk radio would have been McCain winning the presidency. The first best thing: McCain losing.

Barack Obama’s victory gift-wrapped the AM broadcast Lords of Loud’s most excellent goody since Bill went Monica all over the Oval Office. They now have the four-year gift that they’ll make sure just keeps on giving.

Think Reverend Wright’s oft-repeated anti-American “not God bless America, G-d America” tirade - you would think if he had actually been doing this so incessantly for over 20 years, someone would have dug up another rant - has been placed in the archives? Not a chance. Less than a week as president-elect and the honeymoon that never was, is over.

Even when Fox News political reporter Carl Cameron told Fox News non-spinner Bill O’Reilly on Fox News cable, that McCain campaign officials told him that the dope on Palin was that she was a dope, there were some right wing talkers who hypothesized that the dirt was dished by the Obama campaign.

Which brings us all to the question of the Fairness Doctrine, or what radio’s Lords of Loud call, “The End of Conservative Radio.”

The Fairness Doctrine was a U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to present issues in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. Not just say you’re balanced. Actually be balanced.

Right now, with broadcast monsters of the talk radio, Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and company, right-wing radio controls about 95% of the airwaves. Liberal talkers like Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann are limited by the lack of available stations willing to present liberal voices. Some cities have none. The closest to a liberal voice on The Big Talker (WPHT-AM) in major market Philadelphia might be Phillies announcer Harry Kallis and that’s only in describing a Ryan Howard home run. 

Right wing talkers say that “forcing” equal and opposing views is an infringement on their right to free speech. This follows the same brilliant thought process that says allowing gays to marry will ruin heterosexual marriage. Or that the problem with giving Blacks equal rights was that it would ruin the country because it…well, it gave Blacks equal rights.

Conservative talkers like Bill O’Reilly like to say that they are balanced because they bring on the same amount of liberals as conservatives. How far can you throw that stone? Keep in mind, Bill offers himself as an Independent. An Independent who he said “gave Obama a fair shot.” It’s no secret Democrats who appear on O’Reilly’s shows and have a different viewpoint than Bill’s are incessantly interrupted or shouted down. Those who agree are allowed complete sentences.

During the recently completed presidential campaign, Fox News and O’Reilly presented themselves as “fair and balanced” proudly referring to a Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism study that showed they aired 40% negative stories on Obama and the same for McCain. The study reported that other than Fox, McCain had received far more negative stories everywhere else. What O’Reilly failed to mention to his Folks™ was that the study also reported that “Much of the increased attention for McCain derived from actions by the senator himself, actions that, in the end, generated mostly negative assessments.” It follows that with McCain running a far more negative campaign, a 40 vs 40 reporting of the campaigns, would in itself, not been fair nor truthful.

Equality as talk radio defines does not differentiate news from rumor, fact from fiction, actuality from innuendo. And with the capitulation of a so-called liberal media, has successfully pushed partisan conjecture into mainstream debate according it commensurate value with the truth.


Right wing talk allows opposing viewpoint the way masters allowed slaves their freedom. How many times have you heard a right wing host say to someone who is trying to give their point of view, “when you have your own show you can say what you want”?

While the Lords of Loud will shout from their megawatt tower rooftops that the Fairness Doctrine is anti-American (as well as figure out a way to make it anti-troops) and an attempt to put conservative talk out of business, right-wing talkers need not fear imposition of a Fairness Doctrine any more than they should fear an Obama presidency.  As they’ve already shown only days after the election of Obama, the Fairness Doctrine is just the kind of red meat they need to ramp up the base.

And isn’t that what talk radio is all about?



16 Responses to “Fairness Doctrine Is Exactly What The Right Needs”

  1. nathan on November 13th, 2008 4:08 am

    It’s ridiculous to force a free market radio station (any station, liberal or conservative, country or rap) to air specific programming. Programming on AM and FM Radio Stations are based on ratings and advertising. Air America tried and failed. That’s capitalism at work. Maybe more people who would listen to liberal talk radio simply aren’t tuned in during the day; i hear plenty of liberal radio shows in the evening. In the Denver market where I live there is a Progressive Liberal station with Ed Shultz, Randi Rhodes and other local commentators are on all day. Would the Fairness doctrine force these stations to air Rush Limbaugh between Randi and Shultz? Give me a break! If there’s a market for it, then those voices will be on, period. Capitalism at work.

  2. Michael Shuman on November 13th, 2008 5:22 am

    The fairness doctrine should definitly be re-instat-
    ed. The right wing media has an unfair advantage over the progressive (liberal) media types and this is not only unfair but gives a one-sided view of important policies that affect everyone.
    The five media moguls that control all of television news and commentary are all conservatives. The main radio outlet for the talk shows is also conservative(Clear Channel).
    A change is necessary to keep the public TOTALLY in-
    formed of all sides of an issue.

  3. Pat Mongoven on November 13th, 2008 1:41 pm

    The Fairness Doctrine was based on the premise that the public owned the airwaves, and that broadcasters had a responsibility to serve the public if they wanted to be granted a license to broadcast. That meant they had to present all sides of an issue. The FCC knew that broadcasters could make more money airing more popular programs, and that they could use their stations to air their own viewpoints, and purposely constrained those ‘free market’ values by insisting that it was more important to serve the public. There were also policies in place to prevent media moguls from monopolizing the airwaves and newspapers so that multiple viewpoints could be presented to the American people and dissent would not be suppressed. This was thought to be an example of basic civics. But the tide has turned. and it’s now more important for broadcasters use their licenses, their public trusts, to make as much money as they can, rather than serve their listeners in a fair and balanced way.

  4. Arowland on November 13th, 2008 3:07 pm

    The fairness doctrine doesn’t just apply to presenting both sides of an argument, it also applies to presenting the truth. We have a far larger problem on right wing radio than merely allowing progressives and liberals to state their views. The lords of right wing radio lie to people. They distort, bend, twist and mislead. Why is it that when organizations such as the Center for Fairness in Reporting do a study on the news, they find that FOX news viewers have the wrong ideas on issues such as WMD in Iraq etc. It’s because FOX has told their viewers that we did find WMD in Iraq. So does Hannity, O’Reilly, Limbaugh etc. They are paid to lie to the conservative base. If you are a member of the conservative base, you should be highly insulted at how they manipulate you. The Fairness Doctrine works to make sure that NEITHER side of an issue can be presented when it is a lie.
    It used to be that when two people got on a show, with opposing viewpoints, and one lied or mislead, that the deception was revealed by the host. Today, we can have two people with opposing viewpoints on a subject, both can present directly opposing facts on it, and the host does nothing to tell the viewer/listener which is the truth. That is what the Fairness Doctrine is for. The news is supposed to be there to inform you of the truth, not merely push multiple sets of facts and let you choose which you think might be true. They receive the use of the airwaves for free, and the lone string attached to that privilege is that they work to inform the public truthfully. Stations such as FOX have shredded that agreement and do not deserve to have a license. We have a word for what FOX etal does. Propaganda.

  5. Jennifer on November 13th, 2008 7:46 pm


    Here is another blatent example of the agenda of those who want the government to control/take care of our free society. They think ‘we the people’ are too stupid to think about issues intelligently, so they want the government to control what we listen to. We are too stupid to know when those crazy right wingers are lying to us or misleading us or throwing PROPAGANDA our way, so the government must protect us. These same people seem to want the goverment involved in every aspect of our lives, since we can’t be trusted to do things ourselves, such as take care of our families, our needy in our neighborhoods, etc. This issue comes down to this: if you don’t like what they are saying, do not listen to it. There are an extrodinary number of media outlets these days in which to hash the issues and research what is correct and not correct. Not like in the days when the fairness doctrine was first established. It would open up a huge can of worms regarding “fairness,” given the controversial state of the mass media these days (reasonable people recognize the liberal bias). Do we really want to go there? I say just let capitalism prevail, let the people decide with their $ (fingers on the dial), and keep the government out!

  6. Keepingitreal on November 13th, 2008 9:35 pm

    The “Fairness Doctrine” like Steve Young’s hyperbolic, reason-challenged post (perfect for HuffPo) is nonsense. That it is being talked about in terms of Fox and right-wing talk radio (no one ever says, “Oh, yeah, and the Fairness Doctrine will regulate Air America, CBS, MSNBC, etc. as well) is clear evidence that it is designed not just to chill free speech but to squash dissent.

    This demonstrates, along with campus speech codes, the thuggish attempts by the Obama campaign to intimidate opposition speech, and a vairety of other examples, exactly why many on the left (but not all) are massive hypocrites about free speech. They are happy to regulate speech they disagree with, but wouldn’t spend a nickel of the federal largesse investigating why the major network news programs demonstrated consistent bias in favor of Barack Obama.

    Arowland’s complaints (and Young’s race-baiting claptrap) about FOX are laughable on the face of such obvious evidence that polls of the American people regularly identify the news media as both left-wing and biased.

    The “Fairness Doctrine” is an infringment of free speech, period. That it is disguised as a supposed attempt to provide “balance” to the airwaves makes it all the more pernicious. Such balance does not exist on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, MSNBC, or CNN, but no one is talking about applying the “doctrine” there. Why, because, those network news agencies are in the tank for the Democrats and the left, despite Michael Shuman’s empty protestations that they are controlled by conservatives. Only a radical Chomsky-ite could see the situation from such a blinkered, distorted perspective.

    No to the so-called “Fairness” Doctrine or to ANY attempts to control or regulate public free speech. Any attempts should be seen for what they are: a direct and illegal repudiation of our First Amendment rights. Those who would implement the “Fairness Doctrine” are not concerned with fairness or with the Constitution. They are concerned with naked political power and keeping it regardless of what civil liberties they strip away.

    They will be opposed at ever step of the way.

  7. The Oracle on November 14th, 2008 8:42 am

    The Soviet Union never had a Fairness Doctrine.

    The Communist Chinese don’t have Fairness Doctrine.

    Totalitarian dictatorships and thugs around the world, secular or religious, don’t have a Fairness Doctrine.

    Republicans don’t want a Fairness Doctrine.

    Wow, I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

  8. Mike Grello on November 14th, 2008 3:14 pm

    Let’s put this “fair market radio stadion” crap out of our mind for once and for all for two very important reasons.
    First,the radio or TV station is a member of the PRESS. Constitutionally, the press is to be free and unencumbered by privilege, so that those who have the most money don’t get the loudest voice. Let me say this again; a press free from the influence of wealth is such a powerful weapon against tyranny that the founders assured it in the Constitution.
    Second, Those stations are using OUR airwaves; even digital transmissions are transmitted over the airwaves, and more recently transmission lines. So these stations are using our stuff; they are not free to ignore that fact and do as they please. It is precisely the FCC’s (and any other agency) job to ensure that resources that belong to all of us are not hoarded by the few that can afford access.

    Mike Grellos last blog post..Losin My Religion

  9. karlkat on November 14th, 2008 4:06 pm

    One cannot assume that politicians are always forthright, obfuscation of the facts are more the norm than the exception. The Fairness Doctrine is spelled out in Title 47 of the code (47 USC),

    <<< The FCC’s statutory mandate to see that broadcasters operate in the public interest and Congress’ reaffirmation, in the 1959 amendment to 315 of the Communications Act, of the FCC’s view that the fairness doctrine inhered in the public interest standard, support the conclusion that the doctrine and its component personal attack and political editorializing regulations are a legitimate exercise of congressionally delegated authority. Pp. 379-386.

    *Here’s section 315 of Title 47 USC

    <<<Section 315 [47 U.S.C. §315] Facilities for candidates for public office.
    (a) If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station: Provided, That such licensee shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast under the provision of this section. No obligation is hereby imposed under this subsection upon any licensee to allow the use of its station by any such candidate. Appearance by a legally qualified candidate on any –
    (1) bona fide newscast,
    (2) bona fide news interview,
    (3) bona fide news documentary (if the appearance of the candidate is incidental to the presentation of the subject or subjects covered by the news documentary), or………….

    So the fairness doctrine address’s equal time for political candidates, that’s it. Period.
    It’s voluntary, and the question now is what broadcast stations?

    Some history first
    The FCC is the birth child of the Federal Radio Commission , formed in 1927,it was a treaty, and dealt with radio broadcasts from sea going vessals.
    Here’s a link form wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Act_of_1927
    The above mentioned legislation dealt with mobile radio braodcasts, sometimes the message was relayed by *ground base stations.We all know that Congress has authority to enter in to treaties, and even treaties are constrained by the Constitution. The First Amendment protects free speeech, so we should expect the fairness doctrine to conform.
    So lets take a look at 47 USC SECTION 315, and the regulations(very important) to find out what radio stations are covered, so here it is.


    <<<CFR parts for which 47 USC 315 provides authority
    This is a list of parts within the Code of Federal Regulations for which this US Code section provides rulemaking authority. It is taken from the Parallel Table of Authorities provided by NARA at http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/parallel/parallel_table.html. It is not guaranteed to be accurate or up-to-date, though we do refresh the database weekly. More limitations on accuracy are described at the NARA site.
    · 47 CFR 22
    · 47 CFR 80
    · 47 CFR 97
    So the first listed authority is 47 CFR 22, listed below are the pertinent parts, this regulation deals with cellular radio, as in hand held units.
    <<<Title 47: Telecommunication
    Browse Previous | Browse Next
    § 22.1 Basis and purpose
    (a) Basis. These rules are issued pursuant to the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 151 et. seq.
    *NOTE et. seg. Means everything after 47 USC 151 which would include 47 USC 315
    (a) Purpose. The purpose of these rules is to establish the requirements and conditions under which radio stations may be licensed and used in the Public Mobile Services
    (b) § 22.3 Authorization required
    Stations in the Public Mobile Services must be used and operated only in accordance with the rules in this part and with a valid authorization granted by the FCC under the provisions of this part.
    <<<§ 22.99 Definitions
    Mobile station. One or more transmitters that are capable of operation while in motion
    Public Mobile Services. Radio services in which licensees are authorized to offer and provide mobile and related fixed radio telecommunication services for hire to the public.
    So where is the authority to regulate mobile radio services, does it reside with the FCC or is it part of a treaty or convention, lets consult the definitions provided by the FCC.
    <<< Federal Communications Commission
    § 2.1 Terms and definitions.
    (a) Where a term or definition appears
    in this part of the Commission’s
    Rules, it shall be the definitive term or
    definition and shall prevail throughout
    the Commission’s Rules.
    (b) The source of each definition is
    indicated as follows:
    CONV—International Telecommunication
    Convention, Malaga-Torremolinos, 1973.
    RR—Radio Regulations, Geneva, 1982.
    FCC—Federal Communications Commission.
    *Mobile Service. A radiocommunication
    service between mobile and land stations,
    or between mobile stations.
    So the regulations for Mobile Service is based on International Telecommunication
    Convention, Malaga-Torremolinos, 1973, a treaty, terms of a treaty are not enforceable in the several states of the union, see Supreme Court decision Downes v. Bidwell. This by definition would eliminate all private radio stations in the several states.

    So 47 CFR section 22 has nothing to do with private radio broadcasting stations. that are not cellular by nature.
    Now let’s consult 47 USC section 80 for the next authority
    TITLE 47–Telecommunication
    § 80.1 Basis and purpose.
    This section contains the statutory basis for this part of the rules and provides the purpose for which this part is issued.
    § 80.5 Definitions
    Maritime mobile service. A mobile service between coast stations and ship stations, or between ship stations, or between associated on-board communication stations. Survival craft stations and EPIRB stations also participate in this service.
    These regulation have nothing to do with radio stations that aren’t in maritime service (exclusively shore to ship) So lets look at the last regulation 47 CFR 97
    § 97.113 Prohibited transmissions
    <<<<<(b) An amateur station shall not engage in any form of broadcasting, nor may an amateur station transmit one-way communications except as specifically provided in these rules; nor shall an amateur station engage in any activity related to program production or news gathering for broadcasting purposes, except that communications directly related to the immediate safety of human life or the protection of property may be provided by amateur stations to broadcasters for dissemination to the public where no other means of communication is reasonably available before or at the time of the event
    So the last regulations deal with Amateur Radio Stations, which by definition are not permitted to broadcast.
    Has anyone ever seen any one of these radio stations covered by the regulations, which implement 47 USC SECTION 315 with Facilities for candidates for public office. This gets ridicules after a while doesn’t it.?
    This is the way Congress operates, write the laws and regulations, to implement the law, with very limited applications. This is very needful, to avoid being struck down by the Supreme Court. Congress is very adept at using public ignorance and so-called experts to ramrod their agenda.

  10. nikto on November 14th, 2008 8:29 pm

    The only reason rightwingers fear The Fairness Doctrine is that they KNOW WELL that none of their stupid, wacko ideas would stand up to any intelligent scrutiny or counter-argument.

    In any fair argument or debate, righwing ideas lose by a mile!!

    Without lies,smears and *special protection* (which is un-American) the rightwing will lose every time (even with all that Korporate money!) and eventually, if the Elites can be suppressed, it will fade away.

    THEY know this and are rightfully afraid.

  11. Ben A. Jorgensen on November 14th, 2008 10:10 pm

    Mr. Young - The left wants everything to be “fair”. I’m sure most of them realize life is not fair, so how do we legislate fairness? We cannot and should not. That is not the government’s role. Life is hard. You fight for what you believe in, you get an education, work hard, make mistakes, take your licks, and appreciate what you have. You cannot MAKE people like everyone and treat them with “fairness”. That is an ideal that can only really come from the principles taught in the home.
    Right/left - right/wrong - No one has a monopoly on common sense and morality.
    Both sides should stop trying to perpetuate that myth.
    And, for the most part, after reading some of your articles, I kind of think you’re full of crap. But that doesn’t mean I think your comments should be censored or measured for “fairness” in any way. Go ahead. Speak your mind. You have a venue. Great. Everyone has that right in this country. Don’t try to take it away.

    - A Teacher in Vegas

  12. William Squire on November 24th, 2008 10:47 pm

    There is nothing fair about the fairness doctrine. Americans are forgetting about “freedom,” which is far more important than fairness. A government that controls the speech of the people in this way is indeed abusive and tyranical. Every post here in favor of the “censorship doctrine” has one thing in common… they can all be summarized as people essentialy stating: “The federal government should dictate what you hear on the radio.” Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    William Squires last blog post..Obama is in the House

  13. Steve Young on November 24th, 2008 11:14 pm

    No, the gov’t should not dictate, and neither should Clear Channel and a couple others…but they do.


  14. Crash on November 25th, 2008 4:58 am

    Public property belongs to the public. But it’s not owned by the public, it’s owned by CORPORATIONS. Then what do we do? Doesn’t common sense dictate some regulation? Take it from a veteran radio personality… media ownership DOES regulate content… TO SERVE THE ADVERTISERS, not the public. What happend to that deejay you really liked? That music format you really liked? The station you grew up with is now dark or religious programming? IT STOPPED MAKING MONEY for the ownership! The corporate buyouts chocked them out of business. 8-tracks, cassette decks, CDs, MP3 players… technology killed radio and TV.. the Fairness Doctrine will not bring that back… ever.

    Ratings are a joke and are skillyfully manipulated to media buyers that are clueless. If I turn on a ratings monitor or DVR, it doesn’t prove I was viewing or listening, it proves my monitor was on. I get three dollars if I turn in my radio ratings diary… now that’s worth my time and energy to recall what I listened to LAST WEEK! Please.

    If you really want to hurt a broadcaster, it’s not enough to stop listening, it takes MONTHS for that effect to show up. Stop buying the products that advertise on those shows that don’t “serve your interests”… that speaks volumes. The Fairness Doctrine will not pass… it scares the hell out of people that have the money to keep things status quo.

    The Obama win did something more than just wake up the sleeping right, it’s called them to renewed action!

  15. Steve Young on November 25th, 2008 10:56 am


    You little synopsis deserves to be more than a comment. From one former radio personality to another…Well done


  16. American Design on July 19th, 2010 11:12 pm

    Since the 1930s, U.S. banks were the flagships of American economic might, and emulation by other nations of the fiercely free-market financial system in the United States was expected and encouraged. But the market turmoil that is draining the nation’s wealth and has upended Wall Street now threatens to put the banks at the heart of the U.S. financial system at least partly in the hands of the government.

    The government’s about-face goes beyond the banking industry. It is reasserting itself in the lives of citizens in ways that were unthinkable in the era of market-knows-best thinking. With the recent takeovers of major lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the bailout of AIG, the U.S. government is now effectively responsible for providing home mortgages and life insurance to tens of millions of Americans. Many economists are asking whether it remains a free market if the government is so deeply enmeshed in the financial system.

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