The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

22 November 2008

Obamist Newspaper Columnists Claim Talk Radio Won't Be Shut Down


Obamedia's Trickery Over Coming Talk Radio Censorship


Quick to protect their Dear Leader from criticism over plans to crack down on political dissent, liberal newspaper columnists have gone on the offensive, blaming talk hosts themselves for daring to suggest the medium may soon be shut down.

It's a classic case of running interference: cover for Obama by calling his intended targets "paranoid". This has the added benefit of potentially convincing talkers and fans to let down their guard ahead of the real plan.

With each passing day, the need to protect Obama from political criticism becomes even more pressing. Clearly, the Dear Leader didn't have a post-election battle plan and has subsequently ceded much of his power to the Clintons.

That has his media defenders in a tough spot, as the "change" candidate gives way to a Bill & Hillary rerun once in office (one which even Bob Woodward thinks is nuts). After making so many crazy promises on the campaign trail, Obama's handlers are now busy reducing expectations.

With that unnerving scenario now playing out, the media's response is to return to an old stand-by: blame it all on Rush Limbaugh and talk radio for daring to suggest the Fairness (read: censorship) Doctrine may be on the way.

At the Kansas City Star (which has a weird obsession with El Rushbo), far-left columnist Aaron Barnhart takes all the shots he can fit into a piece:

First and foremost, Rush is all about Rush — especially now that he has a bloated new radio contract to justify. That is why he adamantly will not allow the facts to stand in the way of his assertion that Barack Obama is bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, the old government rule that required broadcasters to present all sides of controversial issues.

As the respected trade publication Broadcasting and Cable reported in June, President-elect Barack Obama does not support the return of the Fairness Doctrine, which was abolished in 1987. Just to be sure, B&C re-quizzed the campaign just before Election Day and was told that Obama thinks trying to regulate the airwaves would be a “distraction” from more important national business.

Is it possible the new president will change his mind once in office? Is it possible a Democratic Congress will ram the Fairness Doctrine through and force him to sign it back into law? Perhaps — but as the Senate’s rapid about-face on the Joe Lieberman matter shows, the legislative branch shows no sign of bucking the wishes of the executive branch.

Some members of the paranoid class, afraid of recrimination for all those months trying to scare people into voting against Obama, point out that he has flip-flopped before.

Beyond the silliness of calling any broadcast trade publication "respected" (they are largely advertorial in nature), Barnhart leaves out any mention of the Democratic Party senators who have outright called for a return to the "Fairness Doctrine", which would shut down talk radio as we know it today.

In addition, Democrats have included this position in their party platform for a number of years. Even one current FCC Commissioner believes it could be reinstated.

Here, Barnhart demonstrates that he really doesn't have a grasp of the issue at hand:

Now, I have one question for the paranoids: In what scenario would it be politically expedient to bring back a controversial regulation that members of his own party oppose, would endanger his allies in the Air America network (not to mention NPR) and give a bottomless barrel of material to people who have nothing better to do all day than complain at the top of their lungs?

No such scenario exists.

Obviously, Barnhart didn't do his homework, as he missed this recent interview with Air America's CEO Bennett Zier:

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.

Clearly, Zier expects a Fairness Doctrine to force low-rated Air America programming onto major conservative talk stations. And frankly, he's right, that would be the result. That's why Democrats WILL push for this, it's in their best interests to do so.

Meanwhile, at the far-left Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jay Bookman uses the exact same rhetoric, accusing Limbaugh and others of paranoia and manipulating their audiences. Like Barnhart, he doesn't mention the senators that have called for this policy:

Talk-radio hosts play their listeners as well as Yo Yo Ma plays the cello, stroking a string and making their audience respond exactly the way they want. It’s bizarre how easily they can manipulate people who like to think of themselves as sturdy, independent-minded Americans.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the fabricated right-wing outrage about reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine. Under that long-abandoned rule, radio and TV stations that use the public airways were required to give equal time to various sides of every political issue. The rule was well-intended, but in practical terms radio and TV stations found it safer to avoid political discussion altogether rather than risk running afoul of the law.

For that and other reasons, the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned more than 20 years ago, a change that quickly led to the boom in right-wing talk radio.

However, with Democrats in control of Congress and Barack Obama about to become president, the maestros of talk radio are eager to take advantage. They know that the more threatened their audience feels, the higher their ratings get. And what better way to get their listeners riled up than to claim that the Democrats are out to silence talk radio itself, the medium that brings conservatives the truth as they want to know it?

So for months, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others have been warning their audiences that once in power, the Democrats plan to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. Politicians such as Newt Gingrich have joined the chorus, and the issue is now being cited as a critical reason why Saxby Chambliss has to be re-elected to the Senate. Right-wing pundits insist the issue will be part of Obama’s agenda in his first 100 days in office.

But of course, it’s all made-up nonsense, backed by no evidence whatsoever. In the current issue of the New Republic, Marin Cogan goes looking for those Democrats supposedly plotting to kill talk radio but ends up empty handed.

Clearly, Cogan must not have looked very hard, or she would have come up with statements from Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Chucky Schumer (D-NY), and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), all of whom support a crackdown on Obama critics (the latter has since hedged on the issue, at least for the moment).

But looking at Cogan's actual piece, rather than Bookman's oversimplification of it, Schumer and Bingaman's positions are discussed, but they've been allowed to weasel out of previous statements with new ones, purely for partisan political purposes.

Finally, Randy Dotinga of the North County Times in San Diego pushes his luck even further, quoting a professor from the widely-discredited UC-Santa Cruz campus to make his point:

The FCC killed off the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 amid the growth of cable television, which offered more broadcast voices to the public. It wasn't a big deal: UC Santa Cruz professor Matthew Lasar wrote in a recent commentary that the federal government hardly ever bothered to enforce the rules.

Since then, right-wing talk radio has taken off. According to one estimate, 90 percent of talk radio is conservative; that number may be even higher on talk stations in San Diego, where the sole left-wing talk station tanked in 2007.

Talk-show hosts and their fans fear that the new Congress and president will create a new Fairness Doctrine, designed to make sure a Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz is around to respond to everything that Sean Hannity or Michael Savage say on the airwaves.

Looking into Lasar's work, it's clear he's a left-wing extremist, certainly a job requirement at UC-Santa Cruz. Though he's written extensively about both the FCC and the Fairness Doctrine, it's difficult to find where he's provided evidence that it was "hardly ever" enforced.

But there's plenty of data to support the idea that the Fairness Doctrine is a major headache for broadcasters. Even though successful complaints were fairly uncommon (70 between 1973 and 1976 at a time when only a small number of talk stations were on the air), they were forced to fend off tens of thousands of typically-frivolous complaints by political foes:

If the fiscal years 1973 through 1976 are combined, a total of 49,801 fairness complaints received by the Commission resulted in 244 station inquiries (.406 percent of complaints), 54 adverse rulings (.108 percent of complaints), and 16 general fairness doctrine rulings (.0321 percent of complaints).

That kind of bureaucratic nightmare would convince any station owner to practice self-censorship, even ahead of the policy's implementation. In order to appease conservative talk's enemies, broadcasters would quickly surround Rush's program with Air America's offerings, leading to a ratings and revenue disaster.

Let's face it: the Fairness Doctrine should really be known as the Liberal Talk Radio Welfare Act of 2009. With single-party rule now poised to control Washington, don't think for a moment they will resist the temptation to make this the law of the land.

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  • Wouldn't talk just migrate to satillite radio? I doubt it would die, I can't say the same for the stations stuck with quasi-government programming. I get a kick out of how many "progressive" policies are really "regressive" and "suppressive".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 22 November, 2008 21:52  

  • We don't want right wing propaganda off the radio. (never)

    We just want some left wing truth on the radio.

    Let the people decide.

    ...or is the right so ... AFRAID OF THE FACTS TRUTH & REALITY.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 23 November, 2008 17:04  

  • We just want some left wing truth on the radio.

    Let the people decide.

    No one but listeners and the purveyors of "left wing" radio keep it off the air. It doesn't have the exposure you want because not enough people listen to it. If it was commercially viable, it would find a markat and audience.

    Where it finds those two things - a market and audience - it is on the air.

    Perhaps you want to mandate that it be on the air whether it is commercially viable or not?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 23 November, 2008 19:59  

  • I don't believe there swhould be a fairness doctrine. but i do believe you're paranoid brian. this is not a fight obama would want or need to have anytime soon. talk radio is not nearly the major issue you seem/need to believe it is.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 November, 2008 07:44  

  • Right Wing radio is what made America wake up to how disgusting the modern conservative really is. Normal Americans (who despise the Anti-worker, Anti-family, Anti-American radical right) love to HATE conservative talk radio. For every day, the pig-man gets to let it all hang out on the radio, another 500 people abandon the G.O.P

    Nobody is serious about the Fairness doctrine. The media is a large for profit entity, and if the media laid off Obama (as you claim) the media will be rewarded, just like the media was rewarded for helping Bush get re-elected in 2004. Remember the media loved Bush until Katrina. THe media helps the president and gets re-warded with
    de-regulation and trust laws lifted.

    The Fairness doctrine would not effect he Pig man anyway, Rush does COMEDY/OPINION, not NEWS. Thew Fairness doctrine would effect NEWS-CASTS, not pundit, or comedy/opinion talk shows.

    save my post
    in 4 years when the pig-man is still freely spouting his Anti-worker, racist, and Anti-American Nazi-like sentiment, remember I told you BRIAN was full of crap and the radical right are indeed desperate and need a gimmick to scare you with

    right now the only thing the radical right can talk about on their comedy programs and comedic blogs (such as this) is fairness doctrine, to freak out the gullible readers and listeners, who still think with Maloney, and the rest do is "news"

    4 years from now the comedians on the right, will still be howling on the air, freaking out and exaggerating like they do now

    will you sheep ABANDON THEM ,ONCE YOU REALIZE once MORE, the right wing pundits LIED to you about the fairness doctrine.

    anyone want to wager, there will be no censorship of right wing radio of any kind??

    conservative talk radio is based on the love-to-hate effect. That was the intent, to piss people off and keep them listening, the intent ORIGINALLY was not to create a cult of believers, but a audience glued to the radio because they could not believe their ears.

    Sadly the intent turned into actually believers of a bunch of comedians. Rush, Levin, Savage and the rest are basically comedians.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 November, 2008 10:19  

  • Hack posted
    It doesn't have the exposure you want because not enough people listen to it. If it was commercially viable, it would find a markat and audience.

    interesting, in Seattle the liberal talk station is kicking ass, and Limbaugh is being crushed by the liberal Tom Hartman. Limbaugh is BEING CRUSHED in Seattle, CRUSHED.
    Of course you would not know, you read this blog.
    in a few years it will get worse, con talk radio's audience is old and dying. Look at cable TV, O'riley has top ratings but 70% of his audience is over 50 and has the same numbers he had 5 years ago, NO GROWTH

    obviously you do not check the ratings. Lib-talk stations with actual signals compete.

    so obviously many people listen to liberal talk, conservative talk is eroding, drying up as evidenced by ratings books nation wide. The stations have no numbers in key deoms, and average CUME numbers. The only thing con talk does well in is TSL, time spent listening. Basically con talk is listened by retired people who are obsessed and listen all day

    not much of a market. Things have changed "John". Conservatives have no mandate in the white House, democrats and liberals have a stunning mandate.... and talk radio is changing.

    also if you look at XM/Sirius ratings, liberal talk has a slightly larger audience.

    no market?

    Do you have a clue?

    Who needs a fairness doctrine, conservative talk radio is irrelevant. It did not help Palin/McCain, it NEVER helped Bush, as both Bush presidencies were narrow, basically people listen to talk radio for COMEDY. Rush is COMEDY, Mark Levin is COMEDY, Savage is COMEDY, weird comedy, but still COMEDY.

    I say give us more conservative talk radio. It entertains common folk and informs us how sick conservatives are and it keeps the 1% of the nation that take it seriously (mentally retarded folk) off the streets. Without talk radio, this would be a dangerous nation, anyone who takes these freaks seriously are dangerous sociopaths

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 November, 2008 12:39  

  • "We just want some left wing truth on the radio.

    Let the people decide."

    The people have spoken....hence the beyond dismal ratings of ERR America and other liberal tripe.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 November, 2008 12:59  

  • The people have spoken....hence the beyond dismal ratings of ERR America and other liberal tripe.

    Again, why is liberal talk in Seattle Washington defeating conservative talk?

    ignore it all you want. The people have spoken, we rejected conservatism and the Republican party with a MANDATE, the likes Bush never received

    and lib talk does fine in markets where the station can actually be heard.

    your days are numbered cons. All you have left is the pigman, Levin and the Weiner..... and these people are look upon as comedy. Wing nuts, you are irrelevant

    Can you imagine after the defeat, the humiliation and rejection, a conservative has the audacity to say "the people have spoken"

    we spoke and we rejected YOUR failed ideology and failed Republican party and in markets where you can hear the lib talk station on a normal radio, the numbers are fine, almost identical to conservative comedy talk

    see Seattle as an example. Tom Hartman CRUSHED Limbaugh now 6 books in a row

    your time is up cons, America hates the pig-man, America hates conservatism, and Fox news is on the decline. MSNBC is growing, Fox has not grown

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 November, 2008 14:49  

  • Liberal talk radio is dead...has been for years now. We really miss your radio equalizer show here on the weekends in Seattle Brian, glad to see you've landed on your feet.

    The Obammunists won't try to shut down talk radio right away, but you can be sure they'll try to pass the "fairness doctorine" i.e. censorship before the next elections in 2010.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 25 November, 2008 00:08  

  • Rick, D,

    you might be the only one who ever listened to this fag's show

    your ideology is dead
    conservatism is dead

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 25 November, 2008 10:37  

  • "Widely discredited" UC Santa Cruz campus?

    What the heck does that mean? Anyone who says that or who believes it doesn't much understand how universities work.

    By the way, are you at all clear what the fairness doctrine says? I don't think so.

    Oddly, it used to be right-wingers who pushed it.

    By Blogger John, at 28 November, 2008 07:11  

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