Bill Press Wants Government To Regulate Talk Radio
In Op-Ed, Libtalker Pushes Talk Radio Regulation
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Calling free speech on the airwaves a mere "failed experiment" from the Reagan era, libtalker Bill Press is using today's Washington Post Op-Ed section to call for government regulation over American talk radio content.
Unhappy over the collapse of Washington's ratings-challenged OBAMA 1260-AM, resulting in a format change that's expected tomorrow, Press is decrying the overwhelmingly-conservative state of talk radio, both locally and nationally.
Using rhetoric similar to Obamists who are pushing for a government-led free speech crackdown, he claims the airwaves lack "diversity" because commercial talk leans to the right. Not mentioned in the piece is the apparently-secret existence of NPR, where Obama is seemingly revered as god-like on a daily basis.
As evidence of unfairness, Press cites the District of Columbia's population, where "Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-to-one". As a host himself, however, it's hard to believe he doesn't realize that talk radio's traditional audience base has always been in suburbs and rural areas, not the inner city. That's the case across the nation.
In the District itself, a variety of FM formats fill that niche, between Urban outlets, rock and pop stations, college radio and of course, public broadcasting, with its left-leaning news and talk programs.
From his piece:
If you're looking for a break from those conservative voices that dominate talk radio, take time out today to listen to local station OBAMA 1260 AM. You'll hear the progressive voices of Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Lionel -- or, during morning drive, my own "Bill Press Show" -- providing welcome relief from the constant Obama-bashing by Rush Limbaugh and others. Unfortunately, today's the last day you'll be able to do so.
As reported by The Post [Style, Feb. 2], Dan Snyder's Red Zebra Broadcasting Co., owner of OBAMA 1260, has announced plans to jettison all progressive talk and replace it with pre-recorded financial advice programming.
The commercial use of public airwaves is supposed to reflect the diversity of the local community, but that's not how it works in Washington. On the AM dial, WMAL (630) features wall-to-wall conservative talk. So do stations WTNT (570) and WHFS (1580). For the past two years, OBAMA 1260 -- even with a weak signal that cannot be heard in downtown Washington -- was the exception. No longer. Starting tomorrow, our nation's capital, where Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House, and where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to one, will have no progressive voices on the air.
Here, Press cites "successful" examples of liberal talk radio, using it to build the case that a "conservative media conspiracy" is preventing its success elsewhere:
Why? Station owners complain they can't get good ratings or make any money with progressive talk, but that's nonsense. In Minnesota, independent owner Janet Robert has operated KTNF (950 AM) profitably for five years. In Madison, Wis., WXXM, 92.1 FM, just scored its highest ratings ever. And KPOJ in Portland, Ore., soared with progressive talk from No. 23 in market ratings to No. 1. Nationwide, progressive talkers Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller have proven that, given a level playing field, they can more than hold their own in ratings -- and make money for their stations.
Yes, liberal talk has worked in a few of these places, mostly far-left college towns. Portland is unusually radical politically, so it's no surprise that it has succeeded there. But Clear Channel gave libtalk several years to find an audience in many major cities and it went absolutely nowhere.
One market Press cites is Providence, where WHJJ-AM took a disastrous ratings tumble when it dumped a successful conservative format for Air America's programming. Signal strength was not an issue. So why should any station owner in Rhode Island run programming that has already been rejected by the public?
The former CNN host doesn't stop with mere whining, however: he alleges a "conspiracy" to keep his comrades off the air:
For years, the Fairness Doctrine prevented such abuse by requiring licensed stations to carry a mix of opinion. However, under pressure from conservatives, President Ronald Reagan's Federal Communications Commission canceled the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, insisting that in a free market, stations would automatically offer a balance in programming.
That experiment has failed. There is no free market in talk radio today, only an exclusive, tightly held, conservative media conspiracy. The few holders of broadcast licenses have made it clear they will not, on their own, serve the general public. Maybe it's time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine -- and bring competition back to talk radio in Washington and elsewhere.
But the sad truth, as we've covered many times here, is that today's radio execs lean almost exclusively to the left. If they could get away with dumping Rush and Hannity, they'd do so in a flash. If there was really a conspiracy, conservatives would not so often be forced to lock horns with broadcasting's corporate suits.
Clearly, Press is following up on the recent calls by a number of Democrats in Congress, including Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who just a few days ago made a similar plea for government regulation of free speech in American broadcasting.
Especially interesting is how Press admits that fellow libtalker Ed Schultz will be the one survivor of OBAMA 1260-AM's failure, which he calls an effort "to mollify critics".
Why Ed's program as opposed to Bill's? It's no accident: while Schultz has sought to emulate some of the characteristics of successful conservative talk radio, such as incorporating some entertainment value, Press has not. He's just a bitter whiner.
And it's just downright disingenuous to cite Michael Smerconish as an example of DC's conservative talk stranglehold, given his public endorsement of Obama for president.
One element of conservative success not often seen in its liberal counterpart is good old-fashioned hard work. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and other popular syndicated talkers spend an incredible amount of time every day, including weekends, prepping for their programs, while some on the left have treated their shows as mere stepping-stones to more frequent cable talk appearances.
Now that she has a full time TV gig, that's exactly what Air America's Rachel Maddow has done: dumped her radio show. Conservatives, however, know that radio is actually the more powerful medium when it comes to real, long-term national influence.
Press, for one, has a nasty habit of frequently taking time off from his own program, most likely to pursue other activities. That may work for him, but what about potential affiliates? Why should they commit to him, when his own enthusiasm is so minimal?
We know where this is going: the left is slowly building the case for an Obamist-led crackdown on the airwaves. But to those in the Democratic Party who believe mowing over conservative talk radio will be easy, guess again: the Barack-lash will be unprecedented.
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