Many congressional liberals are in favor of reinstating the so-called Fairness Doctrine and are eager to pass legislation that would do just that. President Bush has vowed to veto such a bill, but Barack Obama, if elected president, would likely sign it into law.
It was the law of the land from 1949 until the mid-1980’s, when it was dismantled by the Reagan administration. This gave birth to the boom in talk radio stations that began in the early 1990’s. Since most talk radio stations and programs tend to swing to the conservative side, liberals are now yearning for the “good old days” of the Fairness Doctrine.
What this law did (and will do again if resurrected) was give the FCC a mandate to enforce equal time for all points of view on all over-the-air radio and TV stations, using the rationale that the public airwaves belong to all. That sounds good on the surface, doesn’t it? However, upon closer inspection, one can see that it is nothing more than suppression of free speech – a blatant assault on the First Amendment. In addition, it is an attack on capitalism and the marketplace of ideas.
To see what might result from bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, all we have to do is examine the reason why there were so few talk radio stations prior its demise. Commercial radio stations, like all other capitalistic entities, are in business to make money. Since the U.S. is basically a conservative country, conservative talk radio is generally an easier sell to listeners and sponsors than is liberal talk radio. Bottom line, radio station owners know that they can make money from conservative talk radio but cannot from liberal talk radio.
However, the Fairness Doctrine created a dilemma for these station owners, since it forced them to match every hour of broadcasting conservative viewpoints with an hour of liberal viewpoints. Most of them made a conscious decision to not carry any talk shows at all because they figured that losses from liberal shows would more than offset any profits from conservative shows. It just didn’t make economic sense to most of them. Instead, most of them decided to stick with programs that were politically “neutral.”
In reality, though, what we actually got – exclusively, for the most part – was the perspective of the mainstream media, which trends toward a liberal view of world, although under the guise of neutrality. Instead of allowing the marketplace to decide what got aired, the government inadvertently forced a liberal bias down our throats for many years. Do we really want a return to that?