The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

01 October 2006

George F Will, KVI, Seattle, Talk Radio


Columnist Will's Warning About Dem Takeover

If Democrats take control of Washington, what recently happened to talk radio hosts in Seattle will spread across the nation, Pulitzer Prize- winning columnist George F Will has urgently warned readers.

After a court decision favoring political opponents in Washington State, a disturbing precedent was set that could serve to muzzle future free speech on the radio. It concerned on- air support by KVI / Seattle hosts for I-912, a ballot initiative that hoped to overturn an unpopular gas tax increase in the Evergreen State.

The Radio Equalizer previously covered the issue here and here.

From Will's column, which will appear in the 9 October 2006 issue of Newsweek:

Seattle—as the comprehensive and sustained attack on Americans' freedom of political speech intensifies, this city has become a battleground. Campaign-finance "reformers," who advocate ever-increasing government regulation of the quantity, timing and content of
political speech, always argue that they want to regulate "only" money, which, they say, leaves speech unaffected.

But here they argue that political speech is money, and hence must be regulated. By demanding that the speech of two talk-radio hosts be monetized and strictly limited, reformers reveal the next stage in their stealthy repeal of the First Amendment.

When the state's government imposed a 9.5-cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax, John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur of station KVI began advocating repeal by initiative. Proponents of repeal put up a Web site, hoping to raise 1,000 volunteers and $25,000. In two days they had 6,500 and $87,000. Needing 224,880 signatures to put repeal on the ballot, they got 400,996.

Appalled by this outburst of grass-roots democracy, some local governments, which stood to gain many millions from the tax, unleashed a law firm that would gain substantially from handling the bond issues the tax would finance. The firm set out to muzzle Carlson and Wilbur, using the state's campaign regulations.

It got a judge to rule that the broadcasters were not just supporters of the repeal campaign, they were agents of it. Why, they had even used the pronoun "we" when referring to proponents of repeal. Their speech constituted political advertising, and their employer was making an "in-kind contribution" to the repeal campaign. The judge said a monetary value must be placed on their speech (he did not say how, he just said to do it that day). The law says reports must be filed and speech limits obeyed or fines imposed.

State law restricts to $5,000 the amount a single giver can contribute in the three weeks before an initiative. If Carlson's and Wilbur's speech were monetized at radio-advertising rates, they would be silenced for all but about 15 minutes in each of the campaign's crucial last three weeks. They continued to talk (the repeal campaign, outspent almost five to one, lost 54.6-45.4) and, aided by the libertarian litigators of the Institute for Justice, have taken the issue to the state Supreme Court.

What has happened in Seattle prefigures what a national Democratic administration might try to do—perhaps also by reviving the "fairness doctrine" (an "equal time" regulation)—to strangle conservative talk radio. And what has happened here—the use of campaign regulations as weapons of partisanship—is spreading.

While Will's commentary is dead- on accurate, what's particularly ironic is that this kind of policy could also potentially clobber liberal talk radio, if only it could find a way to succeed.

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  • Why the fear of the fairness doctrine (which benefits the people and informs them better)?? Can it be with 2 sides on the radio, instead of 1 sided conservative views (self-serving of corperate interests) people will gravitate to the side that represents the people? If the conservative view is so main stream as you and the syncopants claim it is, why would you be so terrified of fairness? Would the market not dictate the radio, and would conservative views crush the fringe leftist view point? Right?? Liberals are little communists, anti-American people? right???Why aere wetting your pants of the idea of "the fringe left" having fair access to the radio?? After all the views of Limbaugh represent all Americans, right??? Only America haters like liberal ideas, right???? Of corse all that conservative radio preaches serves corperate America, and deceives the average listener. With both sides, the conservative hatred falls by power of the market, and when the truth is heard, which represents ALL OF US, conservative elitism, dies. Fear it indeed lemming. Conservative ideals only thrive when corperate America has the final say, and not the people at large. Yes, Brian, 20 years of conservative radio has confused the American people, and with the fairness doctrine back, people will see the difference. BTW I saw the ratings for West Palm Beach and Randi Rhodes had a 9.0 share for listeners 25-34, following Limbaugh, who I believe had lower numbers. Not too bad, for far far left Anti-American Randi Rhodes, huh?? Not bad for an America hater who served in the Air Force, a 9 share huh??

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 01 October, 2006 21:50  

  • Colin Powell's son, in his nepotistically appointed position as head of the FCC, ran Howard Stern off the radio, after a 25 year run. It's all just a little politics as usual. I don't think conservative talk radio is in any danger.

    By Blogger reddog, at 01 October, 2006 22:07  

  • mp
    You should run your show from 12:00 to 3:00 and really show Rush Limbaugh whose boss. You can do it he doesn't even have a college education. You could pull all his listeners away from him. No wait that would be to hard.

    Instead get your congressmen or women to pass a bill that requires half of his listeners to listen to your show. That would be fair. To hell with free market. To hell with free speech.

    I have another idea. I will get my congressman to pass a law that half of all the war protesters must protest for the war.

    Then we can require all Americans to split down the middle half republicans half democrats. No that’s not fair. OK one third democrats one third republicans one third libertarians. No that’s not fair. OK one forth…..

    OK how many people are their in the USA. What do their salaries total? Divide and pass out the fair amount everyone equal wages. Bill Gates does not deserve to make more that us.

    Don’t worry it will be hard but I think we can make it fair.

    "A communist is someone who reads Marx. An anti-communist is someone who understands Marx." Ronald Reagan

    By Blogger PF1, at 02 October, 2006 01:56  

  • "The vice of capitalism is that there is an unequal share of the blessings; the virtue of socialism is that there is an equal share of the misery." -Sir Winston Churchill, British statesman (1874-1965)

    By Blogger PF1, at 02 October, 2006 02:41  

  • pf1:

    My show is a hobby my friend, done for the love of America, and my interest in politics. I do not do it to gain listeners from Limbaugh or anyone else, it is a labor of love. Yes, I'm more educated than Limbaugh, it only shows where brown nosing gets you. I support a free market, and a fairness doctrine would let free market decide, which kind of talk America really wants to hear. Conservative talk dominates because it serves the interests of the 5 companies that control radio, the more de-regulation handed to them by the GOP, the more conservative talk you will hear. The left dares to attack the flaws of a monopoly controlled media, this does not fly with the suits. There is no constructive criticism of the media by the right, other than the great lie "lib media", which if you discern is nothing but a myth. On the otherthread BTW, I was directing my acrimonius tone more towards the other poster than towards you. The fairness doctrine is a good idea, you would be screaming for it, if radio was dominatd by liberals, and radio would be dominated by liberals if there was ownership regulations.
    Sensible regulations does not equal communism, as you attempt to imply with your bateful examples. A fairness doctrine would indeed let the market dominate what you hear instead of monopolies deciding what you hear. There is a difference between a fair market and a market controlled by the largest. What you have on the radio now is practically communism, the most powerful control the radio dial.

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 02 October, 2006 14:57  

  • Why aere (sic) wetting your pants of the idea of "the fringe left" having fair access to the radio??

    1. Well, I'm wetting my pants laughing, if that's what you mean.

    2. You called Air America "The fringe left", not us.

    3. You're welcome to fair access to the radio wave lengths. I have no objections to liberal radio hosts, even if I disagree with them. Air America's sin was not its politics but its crushingly boring shows. I tried to listen, Lord knows, I tried... but it was BORING.

    4. What you are advocating is the government pay for the 'fringe left's ' ideas to be broadcast. I'm not crazy about that, but hey... still comes out the same. The right's message will be broadcast at government expense instead by advertising revenue. The same for the left, but here's the problem Air America:

    Whether the Drobny's or the government is paying....

    nobody's listening. That's got nothing to do with money and everything to do with (lack of interesting) content.

    By Blogger Lokki, at 02 October, 2006 15:11  

  • Welfare radio is defined as err amerika receiving subsidies livig on their talent (which is none)

    The fairness doctrine, also called Airmative action radio, is what existed on the AM band before 1987.. AM radio was a moonscape. now, A.A libs want affirmative action to make up for their lack of talent.

    By Blogger dennis_kookinich, at 03 October, 2006 00:24  

  • Mp

    I am not going to disagree that conservative talk radio dominates the air waves. I believe that is true because they have been doing it longer and they have learned to relay their message in away that people enjoy. Liberal talk radio will learn this if we allow them to fail. If you do not let them fail they will not change and in turn not become successful (free market).

    I hope air America gets in more markets. What do you think they should do if they do not get an audience in a conservative market? This is where we might disagree. I think they should change either their message or the way they deliver it not force a company to lose money (free market).

    If you do two hours of a conservative show then two hours of a liberal show and one has no revenue being generated. Do you force the show making money to support the one not making money? I think if a liberal or conservative show can dominate a market they should (free market).

    I listen to air America I don’t listen for to long because my head will explode. I am one republican that thinks they should put Mike back on the air. He was great for converting church going democrats to the right. Not all but some. I am not ragging on air America but they do not have as many commercial. I don’t know if they were making money or not but other show have commercial the entire break (free market).

    The biggest problem I see with the fairness doctrine is who decides and says “Your message does or does not need to be out their”. It scares me that you could end up with a board that decides whose message is valid. Would it be fair to only have conservative and liberal points of view? There are so many different parties that will want their fair share of the time on the air. I just do not see it working. That is not a free market. That is government controlled air waves. Government controlled message. That is not America.

    By Blogger PF1, at 03 October, 2006 02:02  

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