The unfairness of the fairness doctrine
I am a conservative lesbian living in New York. I would love you to address how the Fairness Doctrine has become a viable possibility for the liberal agenda, given that it is simply modern-day censorship, and also taking into account the undeniably left-leaning media. How can the left not see its hypocrisy?
If there's anything that demonstrates the straying of the Democratic Party leadership from basic liberal principles, it's this blasted Fairness Doctrine -- which should be fiercely opposed by all defenders of free speech. Except when national security is at risk, government should never be involved in the surveillance of speech or in measuring the ideological content of books, movies or radio and TV programs.
Broadcasters must adhere to reasonable FCC regulations restricting obscenity, but despite the outlandish claims of Democrats like Sen. Charles Schumer, there is no analogy whatever between pornography and political opinion. Nor do privately owned radio stations have any obligation to be politically "balanced." They are commercial enterprises that follow the market and directly respond to audience demand. The Fairness Doctrine is bullying Big Brother tyranny, full of contempt for the very public it pretends to protect.
As a fan of AM radio since childhood, I adore the proliferation of political talk shows spurred by Rush Limbaugh's pioneering rise to national syndication in the late 1980s. It represented a maturation of the late-night coast-to-coast radio programs that I had been listening to in the 1970s, such as Herb Jepko (broadcasting from Salt Lake City), Long John Nebel (from New York) and Larry King (from Miami).
However, I do lament the gradual disappearance of small, quirky local shows due to the trend toward national syndication. And I often get bored and impatient with the same arch-conservative message being drummed out 24/7. But let's get real: Liberals have been pathetic flops on national radio -- for reasons that have yet to be identified. Air America, for example, despite retchingly sycophantic major media coverage, never got traction and has dwindled to a humiliating handful of markets. The Democrats are the party of Hollywood, for heaven's sake -- so what's their problem in mastering radio?
Instead of bleating for paternalistic government intervention, liberals should get their own act together. Radio is a populist medium where liberals come across as snide, superior scolds. One can instantly recognize a liberal caller to a conservative show by his or her catty, obnoxious tone. The leading talk radio hosts are personalities and entertainers with huge rhetorical energy and a bluff, engaging manner. Even the seething ranters can be extremely funny. Last summer, for example, I laughed uproariously in my car when WABC's Mark Levin said furiously about Katie Couric, "What do these people do? Open fortune cookies and read them on air?"
The best hosts combine a welcoming master of ceremonies manner with a vaudevillian brashness. Liberal imitators haven't made a dent on talk radio because they think it's all about politics, when it isn't. Top hosts are life questers and individualists who explore a wide range of thought and emotion and who skillfully work the mike like jazz vocalists. Talk radio is a major genre of popular culture that deserves the protection accorded to other branches of the performing and fine arts. Liberals, who go all hushed and pious at Hays Code censorship in classic Hollywood, should lay off the lynch-mob mentality. Keep the feds out of radio!