February 13th, 2009
11:08 AM ET
12 years ago

Dems target right-wing talk radio

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/13/art.maurice.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Maurice Hinchey is targeting right-wing radio."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - More and more Democrats in Congress are calling for action that Republicans warn could muzzle right-wing talk radio.

Representative Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat from New York is the latest to say he wants to bring back the "Fairness Doctrine," a federal regulation scrapped in 1987 that would require broadcasters to present opposing views on public issues.

"I think the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated," Hinchey told CNNRadio. Hinchey says he could make it part of a bill he plans to introduce later this year overhauling radio and t-v ownership laws.

Listen: Hinchey says he wants to make talk-radio more fair

Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Tom Harkin of Iowa added their voices recently to those calling for a return of the regulation.

Republicans oppose the Fairness Doctrine, arguing it would be wrong for the federal government to monitor political speech on the airwaves, in order to require opposing views.

Republican Congressman Greg Walden, a former owner of five radio stations in Oregon including a "classic rock" station joked that the Fairness Doctrine is "the musical equivalent" of "every time we'd play a classic rock song we'd have to play a polka!"

Filed under: Congress
soundoff (221 Responses)
  1. Proud Military Wife

    To Jack Nemers: "Liberal media does not have the financial backing of big business."

    Although George Sorors should be considered "big business," he has quite the money to advance the liberal media and his agenda. Would the "Fairness Doctrine" apply to Move On.org and his Open Society Institute? HARDLY..... since many liberals are quick to use the Bill of Rights when it suits their purpose and no one elses.

    I guess that a few democratic senators and congressman are afraid of talk radio and the purpose it serves and would like to take away someone else's First Amendment's rights. Can these senators and congressman not find enough to do in Washington with the economy and the housing problems?

    What is next ......regulating criminal dramas on television so the Fairness Doctrine would apply to the "alleged criminals" so he or she" would have equal time?

    Senators and congresman....do something productive with your time and stop wasting our precious tax dollars on something that limits the First Amendment.

    February 13, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  2. Jamie

    It's all about RATINGS!!! If you have a talk show that no one listens to, why should you be allowed to keep your program? The Fairness is in the ratings!!

    February 13, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. kingssman

    Why do we need a doctrine to regulate political speech on a onesided talk show?

    Why not just tell the public that right-wing radio is far fetch right wing and Rush Limbaugh happens to be the leader of the Republican party?

    Who would you rather lead your party? A talk radio host, or an actual politician?

    It's no wonder the republicans are so scared, all their people are sitting behind microphones blabbing their mouths off while our people are actually working in govt. Heck Al Franken even left the mic to run for senate and won!. Won't ever see Rush become a senator, because he knows nothing about politics.

    February 13, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  4. Mark

    Kudos to Joyce, however you don't have to be an actual journalist to have a radio show. Most radio hosts and even cable news icons openly admit that they are not journalist, but simply commentators. If some listener cannot take this into account and understand the source of the information they are receiving, we don't punish every one else for their stupidity and have the government decide what and who we can listen to. This is utter insanity.

    February 13, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. Ole

    How about we just educate the country to not believe the lies coming out of BOTH sides' idiot boxes? Why can't we have a political commentary on a station like, oh I don't know, say CNN, without "expert tertimony" from former Clinton or Bush aides? Why do we always have to hear the opinion of some former party hack? THIS is the problem. ALL media has become overly (and overtly) politicized to the point that there is no more unbiased reporting.

    February 13, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  6. arithmetic is liberal

    Your comment is awaiting moderation. – No, really. WHY?

    Here's a couple stories related to the Fairness Doctrine:

    In Madison, Wisconsin, there is a progressive radio station that was #1 in the market. The owner (Clear Channel) decided to change the format to sports, and it created such a public outcry when it was taken off the air that the owners put it back up.

    In Cleveland, Ohio, the progressive talk radio station there, again #1 in its market, was replaced with a Catholic station and it's ratings metrics fell below the level where they could be measured.

    Stories like these, plus similar situations in the Miami, Florida market and the Washington, DC market, are perfect examples of why we NEED the Fairness Doctrine. There was no reason for these stations to go under other than the personal political beliefs of the owners of Clear Channel and CBS radio.

    Thanks to the Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act of 1995, CBS radio and Clear Channel own the ENTIRE market. No, seriously. Two companies. All of radio in the US.

    Clear Channel made its bones on Rush Limbaugh, and its owners are extremely conservative. They dictated which songs were banned from their stations after 9/11, they censored air play of the Dixie Chicks on their stations in the lead-up to the Iraq War, and refused to post paid billboards decrying the war.

    Even with weaker signals, progressive stations are #1 in many markets as measured by Arbitron and ad revenues. The reason why they are being silenced has nothing to do with the free market or free speech, and everything to do with the political leanings of the station owners, even to the detriment of profit.

    The free market capitalist has to wonder, why would you take revenue away from the market, why would you not want to make money for your company, your workers, your shareholders, and your continued growth?

    The answer is that like all other facets of society, distribution must be regulated. Fox News will tell you difference. SEan Hannity said yesterday that you'd have to pry his microphone "out of his cold dead mouth", as if this translated to him being shut up. The truth is, that these people aren't getting "shut up", they will just have stiffer competition. And stiffer competition has always created a better product. Hannity and Rush should be welcoming the Fairness Doctrine because it will only make their programs that much more cutting edge.

    !!!!CNN POST THIS!!!!

    February 13, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  7. Bob

    This is ludicrous. Never mind the Constitutional mandate for freedom of speech, but it was okay for the major networks to all back the "Annointed one" as well as the major print media, but let Rush Limbaugh host a radio show and we need equal time? Oprah refused to host McCain but had love fests with Obama and family but that's okay. Couric roasted Palin but lobbed softballs everywhere else. Olberman had orgasms over the Dems and got fired from the RNC for being a bigot. This is the Gestapo...we need to hire Baghdad Bob on ABC...and all because Air America flopped because noone wants to listen to it...

    February 13, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  8. 1lt

    Is it the fairness doctrine that is really at issue with the conservatives or is it that the conservatives pundits are really afraid that their loyal following will find out they have been lied to and play for fools?????

    February 13, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. Eve

    It would be nice if we could just turn them off as suggested.... but then how many stations would we be able to get? The Air ways are full of The right Wing hate. You can count on one hand the number of Progressive stations we can turn too..... No one is saying that Rush could not continue to talk... But they are saying that the other side should be able to respond. That is the first amendment.

    February 13, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Pat

    Sure lets be fair about things...but lets have NBC and Saturday Night Live make fun of Obama as much as them made fun of Palin & McCain during the election. I am a conservative republican, but I don't believe anything people say now. Both political parties stretch the truth and skew the information in their direction. Media is biased and allowed to be that way per the FCC. You have Coulter and Franken at two extremes, both manipulating facts in order to appeal to their followers. Fact is, the hard right and hard left will never agree on anything, so perhaps everyone should work towards the middle. You have to do your own research in order to find facts.

    February 13, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |

    The reason there are no left wing talk shows is nobody listens to them. As a conservatiive i say let them talk and america will see how bankrupt the socialist ideas are.

    February 13, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |

    The Congressional Democrats who are pushing the "Fairness Doctrine" should be soundly thrashed, tarred and feathered. This is the kind of pushy move that will radicalize American politics and lead to a huge backlash.

    February 13, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. Big Ed

    Hey "bj" and "Duane"!

    There is a difference between Freedom of Speech and the abuse of Freedom of Speech! What do you have to say about "W." and all the Republicans saying that you are "unpatriotic" to to even question him? That is limiting free speech. The illegal wiretapping? That definately is not "free" speech (nor was it anything close to legal).Before you start with this how low can the Democrats sink, make sure your own house is in order. Yelling "fire" in a crowded theater when there is no fire, and people get hurt, is that your idea of the practice of free speech? Free Sspeech comes with responsibility. Read the Consitiution and Bill of Rights and quit channeling Rush Limbaugh!

    February 13, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  14. Steve in Texas

    Absolutely, bring back the Fairness Doctrine. All this bilge about attacking freedom of speech and "turn it off if you don't like it" reveals how much ideology fuels ignorance. There is no rational argument against the doctrine. Those who make profits from licenses to use public frequencies should be required to present a balance of viewpoints. The license is a privilege and needs to carry a responsibility. Nobody will be silenced. The Limbaughs, O'Reillys and Savages pander to the worst intellectual void. If they cannot share frequencies with a rational counterpoint, then let them retreat to the non-public cable or satellite radio channels, where like Stern, they can spew all the anti-intellectual filth they and their crack-brained sycophants desire.

    You should be outraged if regulation of public property was so weak that Walmart or Piggly Wiggly could decide to move into a public park and build their stores. You should be outraged if your state government gives publicly acquired right of way to a private company so they can build roads and charge tolls forever. And you should be outraged if the government does not regulate the use of public airways in the best interest of society.

    February 13, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. call me crazy

    Jack Nemers February 13th, 2009 1:11 pm ET

    The reason there so much right wing radio is that it is financed by big business as a means to push through their agenda. Liberal media does not have the financial backing of big business. If no one listened to right wing radio they would still be financed by big business as a marketing tool. In addition to big business, right wing radio uses the haters, racists and bigots as an emotional cover for their real agenda of special interests. Many of their supporters are too ignorant to realize they are being exploited against their own best interests. They can understand over simplified issues like abortion, gay marriage, and fighting "terrorists" which have almost nothing to do with their daily life. They ignore the real part of right wing radio's agenda which is protecting big business and special interest groups from operating with any oversight or regulation. That is why the market crashed, there is poison in our food, lead in our toys, too expensive health care, environmental issues, unemployment rising, corporate fraud like Enron and scandals like Madoff. The list goes on and on but right wings supporters just want to talk about " the liberal media". Guess what, the liberal media represents real people not big business! Wake up people.

    Jack you naided it !!!!!

    February 13, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. Tojo

    "The Fairness Doctrine" will require an opposing view ... hmmm.

    If you can't arrange an opposing view, then it can't be aired!

    Sounds like a way to silence Left & Right wing doctrines by nobody agreeing to be the opposition.

    Hmmmm ... could NetFlix, Movie Gallery, etc... be behind this policy?

    No Real TV anymore ... DVDs or Nothing!

    February 13, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  17. AJ

    Is CNN censoring my posts? I wrote two so far an hour ago and neither has shown up.

    I would only like to add one more thought to this debate. If the right-wingers truly believe that the media is dominated by liberals, why wouldn't they be all for the Fairness Doctrine? Seems to me a great opportunity for them to see the scales balanced. Of course, the truth is that the media is not dominated by liberals at all – far from it. Every single reputable study on the matter points to the fact that what we have is a corporate media dominated by shills. In fact the whole left-right issue is merely a smokescreen actually to divert our attention and create confusion.

    Wake up people, the Fairness Doctrine is sorely needed to protect all of our interests.

    February 13, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. tsunami

    People who oppose the Fairness Doctrine do not understand what it is all about. It's not about suppressing freedom of expression. It's about expressing differing/contrasting points of view on controversial matters. It doesn't even require equal time. It is really sad to hear radical right-wing talking heads like Hannity, Savage, Levine, Boortz, Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, O'Reilly, Ingram et. al. expressing their hatred about the left in general and democrats in particular without any independent verification of what they are talking about. These megalomaniacs claim that they own the truth, knows the best, and can educate everyone on complex issues. If they were so right, Obama or any democrats would never win elections. The truth is that they are financed by special interests and businesses. Fear, hatred, jingoism etc. sells better than rationalism, reason, and science. Individuals are too weak to counter big businesses and special interests. That's why the government has to step in.

    February 13, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  19. JimCap

    People who own and run radio stations are, by and large, conservative Republicans. They don't want a balance of opinions. They only want to broadcast the opinions that they agree with.

    The airwaves that these station owners use belong to all of us: the broadcasters lease them. They don't "own" them.

    Why should 90% of all opinion on talk radio be extreme right-wing when only 20% of Americans share these opinions?

    We need fairness and balance on the airwaves that belong to all of us.

    The right-wingers will claim that this is "censorship", which is their attempt to distort this issue and confuse the public. They just want to monopolize the airwaves and shut out other viewpoints.

    It's not right. As long as there are only so many radio stations, there needs to be a balance of opinion.

    No one is saying "Stop the conservatives from talking on the radio!" That's silly. What we're saying is, "For every hour of liberal talk radio, there should be an hour of conservative talk radio." To leave it to the discretion of the station owners doesn't work. They'll use it to push their own opinions, which are overwhelmingly conservative.

    It's time for a change from this Reagan-era thinking.

    February 13, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  20. Bill

    Any program that can't cut it in the free market shouldn't be on. Isn't that what PBS is for?

    February 13, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  21. Chris

    I believe that this is getting more attention than it should. As an elected official, you have more opportunities to present your opinion to the media than any other average citizen. This article is my point exactly. You have just presented your side of the Fairness Doctrine issue on CNN. Now, conservative media can disagree with you.

    People are going to listen to who and what they want. Besides how do you regulate an issue, which is nothing more than a slew of opinions? This sounds like a grown up version of the kid who always cries, "That's not fair." Like we all tell our children, "Sometimes life is not fair." This is one of those times. Fair is a very subjective word depending on who is giving and who is getting.

    Life may not be fair but there should be justice. If someone violates another persons constitutionally protected freedom of speech, where is the justice in that?

    February 13, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. pete

    Are CNN, NBS, CBS, ABC and PBS also going to have to air opposing views?

    February 13, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  23. Bob

    TjayeInLA The "fainess doctrine" would force shows to change their format. Rush, like him or not, would be forced to have a so called "opposite view" with "equal time" to counter anything he says. As a result, less people will listen (I know it would be hard for me to continue listening) and advertising $$$ would decrease. Radio stations would find it less attractive to carry his shows. Some may drop him. Stations may also lose money as a result and people will lose jobs. Rush could go to satilite, but there are a lot less listeners there. Liberals achieve their goal of reducing the influence of opposing views. Rush is entertaining and informative to many people. Radio stations, like tv and newspapers, are in the business of making money. How they produce their shows should not be compromised by government. You wouldn't want the govt to force ABC to have "guest stars" on successful shows like Lost.

    February 13, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. princeton12

    Im945: "You obviously don't understand what the Fairness Doctrine is. The Fairness Doctrine does not silence speech, it promotes it, making sure everyone hears all sides to any issue."

    You obviously don't understand the concept of a laissez-faire market. Talk radio is more or less dominated by the Right because conservative hosts consistently demolish the left in ratings. Talk radio employs these personalities because they generate the most ad revenue. If you take away some of the right-leaning hosts and replace them with people from the left to create this so-called "balance", the radio stations will suffer. Public radio is already being jeopardized by Sirius/XM and other news mediums, and the Fairness Doctrine would really send them into disaster.

    Im945, if I may ask, what do you do for a living? I'd be happy to provide an example of how the government could take your profession, regulate it, and force you to go out of business. You wouldn't like now, would you?

    If talk radio annoys you so much, turn on CBS/NBC/ABC – the mainstream media is biased. Or you can just get your MSNBC fix, I hear they're really doing well in the ratings lately.

    And to my last point... "free spech", last time I checked, didn't contain the word fair in it. It may not be "fair" that the Right dominates talk radio. Nor is it "fair" that the left dominates newspapers and television networks nation-wide. Nor is it fair that I have to watch Bruce Springsteen (though a talent artist) who lacks a high school diploma acting as though he's a political authority. But it's free speech, and it's the way it is. Talk radio is free speech meets laissez-faire. If you can't take it, pack your bags for Europe.

    February 13, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  25. Mike

    Can you say censorship? Sounds like the libs have some sour grapes. If people didn't want to listen to conservative talk show hosts on the radio, they would go bankrupt like most of the liberal talk shows have. I guess this is an effort by the left to silence their critics and force people to listen to subpar radio hosts spewing liberal lies and hate.

    February 13, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
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