By Brian C. Anderson
New York Post
October 20, 2008
SHOULD Barack Obama win the presidency and Democrats take full control of Congress, next year will see a real legislative attempt to bring back the Fairness Doctrine – and to diminish conservatives’ influence on broadcast radio, the one medium they dominate.
Yes, the Obama campaign said some months back that the candidate doesn’t seek to re-impose this regulation, which, until Ronald Reagan’s FCC phased it out in the 1980s, required TV and radio broadcasters to give balanced airtime to opposing viewpoints or face steep fines or even loss of license. But most Democrats – including party elders Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Al Gore – strongly support the idea of mandating “fairness.
Would a President Obama veto a new Fairness Doctrine if Congress enacted one? It’s doubtful.
The Fairness Doctrine was an astonishingly bad idea. It’s a too-tempting power for government to abuse. When the doctrine was in effect, both Democratic and Republican administrations regularly used it to harass critics on radio and TV.
Second, a new Fairness Doctrine would drive political talk radio off the dial. If a station ran a big-audience conservative program like, say, Laura Ingraham’s, it would also have to run a left-leaning alternative. But liberals don’t do well on talk radio, as the failure of Air America and indeed all other liberal efforts in the medium to date show. Stations would likely trim back conservative shows so as to avoid airing unsuccessful liberal ones.
Then there’s all the lawyers you’d have to hire to respond to the regulators measuring how much time you devoted to this topic or that. Too much risk and hassle, many radio executives would conclude. Why not switch formats to something less charged – like entertainment or sports coverage?