Friday night I was surfing the web and I checked out the site of WFIN 1330 AM located in my hometown of Findlay. I was checking out any new news since The Courier had published that day.
Along the right side of the screen was a large graphic with a link to a Courier editorial about “Talk Radio”.
Of course I clicked it.
I normally ignore Courier editorials because it is simply the paper’s view of some issue and I usually don’t care what their view is. This time I was compelled to respond. The editorial, published on 6/29, started:
For years it’s been driving the political left crazy that talk radio is dominated almost completely by conservatives.Now, with the 2008 election cycle already under way, Congressional Democrats are doing some talking of their own. Armed with a report released June 20 by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank run by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, they want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine.
This the 2nd Courier editorial where the use of certain buzz words concerned me. Mainly because The Courier has never tried to echo the Talk Radio shows its parent Findlay Publishing broadcasts on stations like WFIN.
It then continues:
Liberals have been trying for years to break into the talk show market, but most of their attempts have failed while conservative shows continue to thrive. Now, thanks to the CAP report, we know the reason: “Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system …” It then lists the requirements of the Fairness Doctrine.
In other words, the free market has nothing to do with it. The problem is that the government no longer forces radio stations to give equal time to “progressive” views.
The CAP report referred to in the editorial doesn’t support the use of the Fairness Doctrine and the report also offers evidence that an argument from “the free market” is also suspect.
The CAP report is quite clear why there is a lack of Progressive voices on Talk Radio:
Our view is that the imbalance in talk radio programming today is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S.
regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast regulation resulting
from pro-forma licensing policies, longer license terms (to eight years from three years previously), the elimination of clear public interest requirements such as local public affairs programming, and the relaxation of ownership rules, including the requirement of local participation in management.
The report makes the point that the Fairness Doctrine still is on the books at the FCC, it is just not enforced and that by itself, is not an effective means of restoring balance on the public airwaves.
Simply reinstating the Fairness Doctrine will do little to address the gap between conservative and progressive talk unless the underlying elements of the public trustee doctrine are enforced, in particular, the requirements of local accountability and the reasonable airing of important matters. The key principle here is not shutting down one perspective or another—it is making sure that communities are informed about a range of local and national public affairs.
And as to the argument about letting the free market decide, CAP offers a couple of examples that put the lie to that view:
More importantly, even in markets where progressive talk is considered a success by the industry standards of ratings and revenue, licensees will often broadcast conservative talk on three or four stations compared to one station for progressive talk. For example, in Portland, OR, where progressive talk on KPOJ AM 620 competes effectively with conservative talk on KEX AM 1190, station owners also broadcast conservative talk on KXL AM 750 and KPAM AM 860. Although there is a clear demand and proven success of progressive talk in this market, station owners still elect to stack the airwaves with one-sided broadcasting… In Ohio, for example, there are 10 radio markets. In eight of those markets, there is not a single hour of progressive talk. In the two markets that do broadcast a total of six hours of progressive talk (Al Sharpton on two urban talk stations), those hours compete against 52 hours of conservative talk. Clear Channel Communications, the ownership group that has committed the largest number of stations to the progressive format, recently canceled the only three progressive talk stations in the state of Ohio.
When 91 percent of the talk radio programming broadcast each weekday is solely conservative—despite a diversity of opinions among radio audiences and the proven success of progressive shows—the market solution has clearly failed to meet audience demand. Even greater deregulation and consolidation of radio station ownership is therefore not likely to meet audience desires or serve the public interest in any meaningful way.
The point was proven in one of the markets that had a progressive radio station. Here in Columbus, Clear Channel changed a station from Air America to all conservative. The company claimed ratings made them change, however the first ratings book after the change showed the station dead last out of 27 stations measured.
The main point in the CAP report and why I support a return to the enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine is to return to the public trustee concept of broadcast regulation. There needs to be a renewal of the idea that the air waves these stations use are “owned” by the people and so they need to serve the local interest and they need to offer all sides to a debate.
The trademark of our democracy is that we believe government should protect the minority from the whims of the majority and again since the frequencies a radio station uses is owned by the public (ie. the government) then it ought to reflect that idea. For a vibrant democracy to flourish there needs to be a collection of views available.
For every Rush Limbaugh a station broadcasts, there should be a show hosted by a local person allowing for local responses (like a call in line) and if that isn’t available then the station should offer a host like Randi Rhodes or both.
This post hasn’t really concerned itself with content too much. I do believe that all points of view should be available – even if I don’t like some of them but the truth needs to be told.
I highly doubt a majority of the public likes what passes for Talk Radio today. Most people listen like how most people slow down to view a traffic accident.
Talk Radio isn’t journalism. It’s just one long editorial and in a majority of cases rebuttals are not even considered and if they are the person presenting the “other side” is either a watered down version of it or they are simply shouted down. The so-called host can say whatever they want, no matter how wrong in fact they are, and no matter who they insult or hurt.
It just happens that most conservative hosts, including the Top 5, do this on a daily basis. It can be entertaining in a sick sort of way but it contributes nothing to democracy or to the public fabric.