The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

31 July 2007

Fairness Doctrine Debate, Canadian Radio, CHRI-FM


Station Protests Forced Non-Christian Programming

While Americans continue to debate the possible reinstatement of the FCC's former Fairness Doctrine, where radio programming must be "balanced" with opposing views, our northern neighbor's own law provides an instructive lesson into this policy's grave dangers.

In Ottawa, Ontario, Christian music station CHRI-FM has been forced by the government to turn over a portion of its broadcast day for "alternative" religious views, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are some of the other faiths that must be represented on-air in order to appease the CRTC, Canada's version of the FCC.

To avoid triggering the requirement beyond a minimal weekly amount, CHRI actually downplays Christian teaching between songs. But now, CHRI-FM's owner wants to establish a spoken word religious station, which could create a potential programming nightmare: how could one satisfy the CRTC's thought police?

Amazingly, the policy was established with the stated desire to quash religious programming from the airwaves. Is Canada really a free country?

From the Ottawa Citizen's Jennifer Green:

But now Mr. Du Broy wants to start a new Christian station, WORD FM, aimed at the growing radio audience older than 45, many of whom want Christian programming, but not the racket of rock music.

It would offer more than two-thirds spoken-word broadcasting with programs such as Billy Graham's Hour of Decision and James Dobson's Focus Weekend.

Religious music needn't be offset with other faiths, but the broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio- television and Telecommunications Commission, does require that spoken-word programming offer differing views. However, it is up to the applicant to propose just how this would be done.

Denis Carmel, the CRTC's director of public relations, said "It's unlikely that a single-faith station could be balanced (without some programming on other faiths)." Is it possible to get a licence without outside faith programming? "I'm not going to respond to that." Mr. Du Broy figures the CRTC will want at least one hour and 11 minutes a day devoted to other faiths. To get that figure, he multiplied 67 per cent (the amount of talking on air) by 7.35 per cent (number of non-Christians in the Ottawa area) to come up with 4.9 per cent of the 24-hour broadcast day, or 71 minutes.

The problem is, Christian radio listeners don't always care for the outside programming.

Many have enjoyed CHRI's Reflections on the Torah but Their Days, five-minute segments on Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, have been less of a hit.

Mr. Du Broy says in his submission to the CRTC, "... on a regular basis we receive complaints from core listeners that a non-Christian message does not belong on a Christian radio station. Many listeners have told us that it is too good and may seduce young people into following other religions." Counterbalancing religious points of view may sound like taking political correctness to extremes, but it comes out of a tumultuous history of religious broadcasting, stretching back the 1920s, when fiery radio preachers thought nothing of insulting other faiths over the airwaves.

A royal commission banned religious broadcasting, formed the forerunner of the CBC, and established strong federal control over the airwaves until the 1980s when the broadcast universe exploded with new channels and radio frequencies.

What isn't working in Canada certainly has no place in America, does it? Look at the impact of governmental intrusion into broadcasting. If this doesn't hammer the point home, your Radio Equalizer doesn't know what could.

While reinstating America's version isn't on the table for now, it's highly likely to return under a Democrat president and Congress, especially at the point when the terms of Bush's FCC appointees have expired.

Is this really constructive for the US or any other country? Just ask a Christian in Canada.

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  • I think the Canadians are making the point that U.S. broadcasters seem to be missing. The airwaves do not belong to the broadcast corporation; they belong to the public.

    The radio corporations continue to forget that their license to broadcast is not a bill of sale. For the small price of serving the public's interest they have a virtual license to print money. This is especially true of religious broadcasters who spend very little money on content yet rack up ridiculous amounts of money from donations from the faithful.

    Brian, you, as an out of work talker should love the idea of a Fairness Doctrine. Before it was, in effect, repealed, stations in all market sizes depended on a sizeable amount of local content, thus, more jobs for more talkers. Rush Limbaugh and the network talkers dominated a much smaller percentage of on-air content because the local talkers provided not only a bit of balance but actually focused on issue pertinent to the local community. Now, with absolutely no regulation on content, a small cadre of network talkers command virtually every hour of programming on most stations throughout the country. Thus, your unemployment status, Brian.

    It seems to me, regardless of your political stripe that we would want more voices in the talk arena, not less. Your philosophy of deregualtion has put you out of a job. Kinda sucks to be your own worst enemy, eh Brian?

    By Blogger Dave Carroll, at 31 July, 2007 18:37  

  • Dave Carroll said
    It seems to me, regardless of your political stripe that we would want more voices in the talk arena, not less.

    You are missing the key point. Let the market decide, not the government.

    If the government regulates the points of view, we will end up with hundreds of piss-ant diatribes by the craziest of the crazy. And all these deranged messages will turn off the viewers. With the end result: programs will switch to pablum, there will be no controversial subjects, and circulation will plummet.

    After all, who wants to listen to a NASA presentation about the planning for the next long distance space launch, and be subjected to incoherent ramblings from half-drunk unemployed Alabama good-old-boy about the outer space alien he allegedly met last Saturday night.

    The Fairness Doctrine will not restrict the discussion to the PRO and the CON side. There are many different viewpoints on a specific subject. Nothing is black and white. So, if you want more voices, then get ready for a constant nightly barrage from the likes of Ward Churchill, Fred Phelps and CAIR.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 31 July, 2007 20:50  

  • The Fairness Doctrine is, simply, an excuse to regulate speech and content on free airwaves.

    Violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

    Our times change...meaning that we have no need for an archaic law that has barely any Republican support and only 1/2 Democrat support.

    The market should decide. And they have. They want what they have right now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 31 July, 2007 23:54  

  • And both of you miss the point that radio is not a mere commodity but a public trust.

    The market does play a factor but it should not be the only one. That's the point the Canadian government is making.

    It isn't a bill of sale, it's a license and the only measuring stick is not just ratings and revenue.

    By Blogger Dave Carroll, at 01 August, 2007 04:33  

  • Cons claim Fairness doctrine is consorship


    it is a intelectually dishonest straw man argument
    it never advocated consorship

    again cons wet their pants at the idea of radio listeners having side-by-side viewpoints of conservatism and liberalism.

    cons are terrified of a battle of ideas

    they lose every single time, RNC radio is based on loyalty to the GOP and nothing else. There is not a single conservative talk host who is a conservative, they are GOP pundits, SIMPLE AS THAT, and they are terrified of dealing with the other side, which is FACT BASED

    not censorship, fairness doctrine is accountability

    cons love to be fed their lies, and close theur ears to the truth, therefore they are scared of fairness.

    Why do cons love to be lied to?

    Conservatism really is a mental illness

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 01 August, 2007 09:58  

  • Benson
    we will end up with hundreds of piss-ant diatribes by the craziest of the crazy.

    we have that already..
    michael Savage
    Marc levin
    Rush Limbaugh

    pissants with insane diatribes written by the RNC

    conservatives are piss ants by nature, submissive to the letter "R" and a failed ideology

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 01 August, 2007 10:00  

  • MOPPETTE said:
    pissants with insane diatribes written by the RNC

    As I said, I would much prefer market decisions (the people) over government decisions on what I listen to.

    Take a look at NPR to see the result of the government subisidized actions!

    Example: NPR has doggedly refused to air the broadcast called Islamist vs Islamist, even though it was paid for with $700,000 of taxpayer money. After repeated attempts by the supporters, half of the presentation has been released, but the first more important part is still censored.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 01 August, 2007 10:44  

  • Benson.

    Has it ever dawned on you that the first half of Islamist vs. islamist is just poorly produced or makes statements that aren't backed up by facts?

    All the taxpayer dollars in the world can't make a poorly produced product with a blatantly biased point of view, air worthy.

    Here's an idea. Why not try to offer it up to the film festivals or do as Michael Moore does and commerically release it? This way, it can be as biased and insubstantive as it wishes and "market forces" will determine if it is truly viable.

    Isn't that the argument you all use for the lack of liberal talk on commercial media?

    By Blogger Dave Carroll, at 01 August, 2007 11:05  

  • Dave Carroll said:
    Why not try to offer it up to the film festivals or do as Michael Moore does and commerically release it?

    Thank you for the suggestion. You have just proved my point. The producers would love to release the first half of the presentation. They have been actively hyping it, but the NPR censors refuse to release it.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 01 August, 2007 11:16  

  • I'm seeing the confusion in your argument, Benson.

    First off, the title is "Islam vs. Islamists." A minor point but let's be accurate about what we're talking about.

    Secondly, this isn't an NPR issue at all. The "R" is for "radio". What you meant to say was PBS which is television.

    Now, clarifying that point, this isn't an issue with PBS, it is with WETA, a PBS affiliate in Washington, who produced the series. This is an important distinction. PBS didn't produce this series, WETA did. WETA is a private, not-for-profit corporation who received part of their funding from a government grant for the 11-part series "America at the Crossroads". PBS didn't produce this and left it to the producers, WETA to make the final decision as to what would air.

    WETA paid $700,000 to Martyn Burke based upon a proposal he submitted to them to be part of the series. Perhaps you don't understand the world of producers, be they a not-for-profit corporation like WETA or major Hollywood production company like Jerry Bruckheimer, the rules remain the same. The producer is the money man and, as such, owns the final product. It is entirely up to the producer (as it is for the publisher of a novel) to decide when and if a product they paid for is released. There have been countless examples of movies, television shows and books that never made it on the screen or shelf because the producer/publisher was not satisfied with the final product. They didn't get what they paid for and don't want their name going on the product.

    Perhaps what Martyn Burke and his partners, Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev, who run the Center for Security Policy, need to do is scrape up the dollars and buy back the documentary from WETA. If that has been offered and refused, then you have a valid argument, Benson.

    But this issue has absolutely nothing to do with decisions made my PBS or, as erroneously stated, NPR.

    Its a non-issue at worst,Benson, and a flawed argument at best.

    By Blogger Dave Carroll, at 01 August, 2007 12:16  

  • Here's the first thing about the Fairness Doctrine:

    It ain't comin' back. Period.

    But that's not all. The left is bringing it up for a very good reason: to distract conservatives from what they're really trying to do.

    What's that? They're trying to put the hurt on Clear Channel, News Corp, and other companies that own multiple TV and radio outlets. I work for the NAB, so we represent the terrestrial radio owners the left is going after.

    The "Fairness" Doctrine is clunky and outdated, and they know it. Maurice Hinchey brings it up because they know righty bloggers will go after that and ignore the pressure they're putting on the FCC behind the scenes.

    There is a whole campaign run by a group called FreePress (a misnomer if I've ever heard one) that's trying to get FCC chairman Kevin Martin to tighten the ownership rules, and even break up companies like Clear Channel.

    So watch out -- the Fairness Doctrine is bad, but it's a red herring.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 01 August, 2007 16:27  

  • MoPoop asked: "Why do cons love to be lied to?"

    Because the alternative is to listen to deranged morons like you.

    By Blogger John, at 04 August, 2007 17:53  

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