Column: Fairness Doctrine Would Force Liberalism On Radio Audiences

This story was written by Ashley Herzog, The Post

Lets hope Barack Obamas campaign was telling the truth when it said the candidate has no intention of reviving the Fairness Doctrine if hes elected. This Truman-era piece of legislation is not simply outdated its also part of some congressional Democrats plan to control speech on the radio.

The Fairness Doctrine was enacted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949, long before the existence of the Internet, cable TV or satellite radio. It required FCC-licensed stations to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance. While that might indeed sound fair on paper, the Fairness Doctrine was used by both Republican and Democratic administrations to harass critics on the radio and TV. In the 1980s, with a growing number of media outlets voluntarily offering diverse viewpoints, President Ronald Reagans FCC had the good sense to stop enforcing it. Most people were cool with that until Rush Limbaugh came along.

Limbaugh is by far the most successful radio personality in America, broadcast on hundreds of stations to a daily audience of more than 20 million. Part of his shows early success was that he was one of few alternatives to network TV news, which was dominated by liberals like Dan Rather. As Ann Coulter described the early-1990s Rush Limbaugh Show, It was finally possible to hear something other than press releases from the Democratic National Committee.

Throughout the 90s, liberals kept looking for the answer to Rush Limbaugh. They put a string of left-wing radio hosts on the air, most of whose shows were canceled within a few months because of lack of interest. As an article in Public Interest magazine reported, Mario Cuomo, Gary Hart, and Alan Dershowitz had their own talk radio programs, each of which proved to be low-rated and short-lived. After liberal Texan Jim Hightowers show was canceled, he told Mother Jones, These stations say hey, Rush Limbaugh seems to be working, I need a Limbaugh, too.

To date, no liberal radio host has approached the success of Limbaugh or other top-rated conservative hosts, including Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. According to TALKERS Magazine, as of spring 2008, the five most popular talk radio shows in the country were all hosted by conservatives.

Unable to succeed in radio by actually attracting audiences, some liberals now see the Fairness Doctrine as a tool to force people to listen to them. Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Al Gore have all voiced their support for the law. Kerry even supports the old equal time rule, which would require radio stations that air conservative shows like Limbaughs to grant equal time for a liberal talk show regardless of whether or not anyone wants to hear it.

A new Fairness Doctrine would drive political talk radio off the dial. If a station ran a big-audience conservative program like, say, Laura Ingrahams, it would also have to run a left-leaning alternative, New York Post reporter Brian C. Anderson wrote on Monday. But liberals dont do well on talk radio, as liberal efforts in the medium to date show. Stations would likely trim back conservative shows so as to avoid airing unsuccessful liberal ones. This isnt fairness; this is the government dictating who and what were allowed to listen to.

Some civil libertarians these Democrats are.