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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Betsy Hit A Nerve

Betsy Newmark posted about Chapter 9028 of the "We must return to the Fairness Doctrine":
I don't think that such a law could ever get through both houses of Congress. I can't see the Senate Republicans being so stupid as to let such a bill come up for a vote there or, if they did, a Republican president signing it.

But it is a clear indication of how liberals think. If they don't like what is being said, they want to regulate it out of existence.
The comments seem to prove her point - here's a sample:
It is not that liberals want to regulate what they do not like out of existence.
It is that when liberals see injustice, they choose to correct it.
When Saint Ronald Reagan stopped enforcing the fairness doctrine, we saw the rise of right wing partisan (lying) slanted talk radio.
Rush Limbaugh could not spout out his torrent of lies if someone was allowed to correct him with actual facts.
What are you wingnuts afraid of?
Oh yeah, the truth.
Kind of amazing, isn't it? Note that word "allowed". Here's another:
The airwaves were ruled to belong to the people of the united states shortly after radio was invented. Broadcast media exist, and are liscensed, solely in the public interest. Reagan frogot about that when he did away with the fairness doctrine and it's time to remind all of the owners of these stations who they really work for.
But let's be frank. The real reason that the right is against this doctrine is that their positions cannot be supported in an intellectually honest environment. The big lie only works when nobody is allowed to call bullshit.
They do not explain how no one is allowed to contradict Rush Limbaugh, and I'm pretty certain that people do. Even on the radio. Eeyore sounds a grim note of reality:
And so you agree with me that the Fairness Doctrine is a bad idea since it lets politicians and bureaucrats and whoever gets into office are the ones who decides what is fair and truthful.

Thanks for clearing that up.
Needless to say, Eeyore does not convince the Fairness Doctrine supporters. Of course we all know that it would be used to file endless claims against radio and TV stations that carry programs people find offensive and some would be liberal programs!

I think this is a relatively small branch of the leftwards half, but it sure does have a lot of passion. I started this with a question in mind, though. Hasn't the rise of blogging and message forums overtaken the worry about a few vested interests taking over the public forum? Haven't new and even more flexible methods of public discussion and dialogue evolved? Isn't this a sort of ante-bellum debate about a problem that doesn't really exist and can't?

MaxedOutMama, you hit the nail on the head with your assertion that the environment in which the original Fairness Doctrine emerged no longer exists. The irony is that supporters of this revamped Fairness Doctrine claim that it will result in more diverse voices on the airwaves by lowering the number of media outlets that one company is permitted to own in a single market, yet in practice, placing limits on the station ownership has been shown to have the exact opposite effect. If corporations are forced to sell off certain stations, the majority of those properties will find themselves unable to compete against cable, satellite, radio, and the Internet for the advertising dollars on which they rely. And without the necessary income, these stations will eventually fail, resulting in less competition and ultimately a more homogenized media, neither of which is in the best interests of the public. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I do some consulting work with the NAB.
I think the original Fairness Doctrine was based on the government's authority to regulate the airwaves, based on the Federal Communications Act of 1930-something, which in turn derived from the characteristic of radio spectrum being a strictly-finite resource. I don't know if the proponents of a revived Fairness Doctrine intend it to apply to cable, but such an extension would be unlikely to pass constitutional muster, given that cable transmission doesn't use the airwaves. Over-the-air radio is slightly more problematic, but only slightly given the large number of alternatives that now exist.

Also interesting: several years ago, there was a movement to license low-power FM stations without making them jump through regulatory hoops. This was frantically fought by the existing broadcasters, and I don't recall any significant number of leftists campaigning for LP FM in order to increase availability of "non-corporate" voices.
Truman - excellent point. Stations are really interested in getting money-making programs anyway. They will air anything that makes money.

Aside from the dynamics you mention, allowing another avenue of legal harassment is going to disadvantage new emerging shows, which will inevitably constrict the breadth of views carried on radio. My guess is that it would help Rush (who is a proven money maker), and hurt any smaller program base that incurs the wrath of a certain percentage of listeners. Because I would be willing to waste a little air time to continue to carry a proven moneymaker, but I certainly would not do the same for a smaller program which is not drawing much advertising revenue yet.

But liberals don't understand economics AT ALL. It is the one really defining characteristic dividing what is called the liberal/conservative split. You have liberals on the right and the left, libertarians on the right and the left, social conservatives on the right and the left, fanatics on the right and left, and religious people on the right and the left.

Moderation and pragmatism is such a huge, enduring feature of the American political landscape that it is nearly impossible to find clear dividing lines between the leftwards half and the rightwards half.

An absolute inability to understand how dynamic systems work does distinguish the left from the right, though. It's a fundamental characteristic of those who believe that this Fairness Doctrine is going to somehow work to foster diversity. It's also a fundamental trait of the deranged environmentalists.
David - you're right. They're not really interested in diversity, but in what they consider "fairness".

But the joke is that audio files can be easily distributed on the internet, and the ubiquity of IPods and DSL has made it possible for radio-like broadcasts to be disseminate via the internet. This opens up a range of possibilities that hasn't been yet exploited but soon will be.

For example, as soon as text to voice automated conversions improve slightly, newspapers may be disseminated and listened to as audio files. It would be relatively easy to splice in local market ads.
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