Censorship Looms Over Talk Radio
By Brad O'Leary
As a candidate, Barack Obama was mostly relegated to filing complaints, threatening lawsuits and organizing angry mobs to intimidate dissenters. As President, Obama now has unbridled power to systematically destroy the only source of checks and balances to his radical policies: talk radio.
While liberal bias permeates movies, television, print media, network and most of cable news, academia, art, and theater, talk radio has long served as one of the last bastions of alternative information. Studies have shown that listeners of talk radio are far more informed on issues than the general public. Talk radio also serves as a rallying point for grassroots activism. When a controversial immigration bill was set to pass under the radar of an unsuspecting public, it was talk radio that alerted the public and subsequently led to a congressional switchboard overload by angry constituents.
According to an Associated Press report, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) wrote a letter to then FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in 2007 expressing his concern that Democrats may want to re institute the Fairness Doctrine. According to the AP, Pence relayed that "Democratic lawmakers suggested that Congress take another look at [it] after conservative talk radio show hosts aggressively attacked an immigration reform bill when it was on the Senate floor, contributing to its defeat." The Democrat majority in Congress is all too eager to join Obama in the destruction of one of the last industries that stand in the way of their agenda.
In the spring of 1987 both Houses of Congress voted to put the Fairness Doctrine into law, but President Reagan vetoed the measure. Without sufficient votes to override his veto, foes of free speech and open debate tried once more during the administration of George H. W. Bush. The elder Bush vetoed that legislation as well. Both times Congress had the votes to censor radio, so it should be no surprise that, in 2009 and beyond, Congress will have the votes once again to impose censorship. However, this time they will have a president whose party leaders and supporters are in favor of such an action. Undoubtedly, the president himself will support it as well.
In a February 2009 interview with CNSNews.com, President Obama-appointed interim FCC Chairman Michael Copps said, "[W]e have to find a way to make radio reflect the public interest…I'm going to look at how we put public interest considerations and guidelines back into licensing for full power stations. I think that's something we need." In lockstep with Fairness Doctrine policies, Obama's interim chairman would threaten station owners by not renewing their licenses unless they meet the public interest requirements concocted by Obama and the FCC.
According to Copps, "mindless deregulation" has hurt localism and diversity. So-called "public interest" requirements would put broadcasters at the mercy of local review boards, which would be better named "commissar committees." Such boards would, of course, be politically charged entities with the power to bar any broadcast content that is not deemed to be in the "public interest" of the local community. "If markets cannot produce what society really cares about," says Copps, "like a media that reflects the true diversity and spirit of our country, then government has a legitimate role to play."
The Fairness Doctrine is not about providing "diversity" in debate to the public; otherwise the doctrine would be applied to other media outlets such as network broadcasters, print media and academia. The Fairness Doctrine is about eliminating the voice of dissent, essentially burning talk radio at the stake.
The Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress know that liberal talk radio has very little chance of success in America. The liberal radio network Air America filed bankruptcy a mere 2 years after its launching and National Public Radio (NPR) can only survive with public funding. By demanding that broadcasters across the country yank "controversial" talk show programs and replace them with unpopular alternatives, Congress is essentially handing talk radio an economic death sentence. Radio stations would be forced to either provide bland, noncontroversial content or allow failed liberal talk show hosts equal time. Whichever nail in their coffin they choose, listenership and revenue will dwindle under the guise of "diversity" and "public interest".
All of these measures are designed to dismantle and control the "public" airwaves. Christian radio stations would be especially impacted. According to the American Center for Law and Justice, the Fairness Doctrine policies "would have significant and serious impact on Christian broadcasting."
Imagine Christian broadcasters being forced by local boards to grant equal time to proponents of abortion, gay marriage and prostitution equal time on their stations for the sake of the "public interest".
If you think the anti-free speech policies of the Fairness Doctrine will not pass muster in the Supreme Court, think again. Key provisions of the anti-free speech McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms were upheld by a 5 to 4 decision by SCOTUS. Provisions in this assault on the First Amendment included making it illegal to mention a member of Congress running for re-election in an advertisement within 60 days of an election.
Like campaign finance reform, the Fairness Doctrine is simply another means for certain politicians to maintain power by crushing opposition. Talk radio has been one of the few venues in America to provide alternative information and opinions, which is why it has enjoyed such enormous success. To the Obama Administration and Democrat-controlled Congress, talk radio is too big and must be censored.
* The views of Opinion writers do not necessarily reflect the views of NewsBlaze
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