Why Is Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Pushing Talk Radio Censorship?
Stabenow An Odd Choice To Lead Censorship Push
Did Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) really believe she could get away with calling for conservative talk radio censorship without revealing her husband's past ties to its troubled liberal counterpart?
One day after telling libtalker Bill Press she was interested in pushing Senate hearings into the issue of regulating talk radio content, that's the jaw-dropping conclusion we must make. Does she really believe we are that stupid?
Over the past several years, your Radio Equalizer has tracked the Stabenow - Athans connection to "progressive" talk radio, with several exclusive reports found only here. For the connect-the-dots recap to today's events, see below.
First, from the Bill Press Show:
BILL PRESS: Yeah, I mean look: They have a right to say that. They’ve got a right to express that. But, they should not be the only voices heard. So, is it time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine?
SENATOR DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else – I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.
BILL PRESS: Can we count on you to push for some hearings in the United States Senate this year, to bring these owners in and hold them accountable?
SENATOR DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): I have already had some discussions with colleagues and, you know, I feel like that’s gonna happen. Yep.
Now, consider what Air America Radio CEO Bennett Zier told Radio Ink, an industry trade publication, just after the election:
RADIO INK: What do you think of all the speculation about the return of the Fairness Doctrine? Would that be a big problem for Air America?
BENNETT ZIER: If there’s a Fairness Doctrine, one would say that would be a good thing for left-of-center talk. But I think if Air America puts forth relevant, entertaining, provocative content, it’ll be a balance. People will be interested in what we want to do. We believe that we need to control our own destiny, and we’re going to do that by giving the listeners, the viewers, and the readers what they want in a lot of different technologies.
Though Stabenow's call for talk radio censorship has received a great deal of publicity since yesterday, almost no one (outside of one or two blogs) has connected any of the dots between her stance and the longstanding ties of Athans to the fledgling libtalk format.
Let's take a "stab" at painting the complete picture now:
Athans first found a role in "progressive" talk radio back in 2004 as CEO of Democracy Radio, which preceded Air America and whose programming (Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller) was ultimately absorbed by Jones Radio Networks (now part of Dial Global).
In November 2005, we reported exclusively that Athans had received a cushy (if not downright fishy) deal to establish a "DC office" for Air America Radio, at an annual salary of $165,000 once he went full time in 2006. His job duties were fuzzy at best and any real results even harder to quantify. At the time, we wondered if he was hired simply to gain political access to Stabenow.
Lasting less than a year in that position, Athans left Air America once it could no longer afford him, departing to start yet another liberal talk radio network, Talk USA Radio. What ultimately became of that venture is anyone's guess.
We next heard from Athans in 2008 as he was arrested as part of a prostitution sting in Troy, Michigan.
Air America's Zier supports the Fairness Doctrine most likely because it would compel successful conservative stations to carry unpopular liberal programs in the name of "balance". That could open up a tremendous number of new opportunities for Athans, given his background in the industry, which would certainly benefit his family financially.
The end result: Stabenow has a great deal to gain from the reimposition of the FCC's Fairness Doctrine, as it could well get her troubled husband on a solid career footing.
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