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From the Chuck Armstrong Vault | 980 At Night
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From the Chuck Armstrong Vault

A little more than a year ago I wrote a column for the pile of trash that is the student newspaper of Kansas State University. Now that the Fairness Doctrine has once again been brought up and appears to be a closer reality than I thought it would be, I thought my column from a little more than a year ago would be quite pertinent. Enjoy.

Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are the top radio talk show hosts in the nation.

Now say hello to a few of the liberal talk show hosts: Alan Colmes, Al Franken and Randi Rhodes.

According to Talkers magazine - the industry’s bible - Limbaugh reaches more than 13.5 million listeners, and more than 12.5 million listeners tune into Hannity’s show.

A weak 1.25 million hear Colmes, Franken and Rhodes.

Many liberals want to fix this imbalance by allowing the government to mandate equal coverage of any public issue of importance. A resurrection of the Fairness Doctrine, a liberal’s dream come true.

In 1949, the Federal Communications Commission created the Fairness Doctrine, a regulation requiring anyone holding a broadcast license to give equal coverage of any public issue of importance. (Whether an issue was controversial or not was decided by the FCC.)

If a listener felt a station was not giving a balanced view, they could file a complaint with the FCC.

Jim McKinney, former head of the FCC’s Mass Media Bureau, said when a complaint was filed his staff would “pull out stopwatches” and time how long the issue was on the air.

Then, McKinney said, either the investigation would be closed, or “they would prepare an item for the commission to take an enforcement action.”

This regulation tried to provide more opinions and information for the American public. However, it actually did the opposite.

Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers, said because of this doctrine, “there was very little provocative … or even pertinent political speech on the radio.” Station managers did not want to waste the time or pay the money required by the FCC to investigate complaints.

In 1985, Mark S. Fowler, a communications attorney serving on Ronald Reagan’s campaign staff, said the regulation hurt the public interest and violated the First Amendment.

In 1987, the FCC abolished the doctrine. Afterward, talk radio exploded and created the spectrum many know and love today.

Unfortunately, many Democrats want to revive this archaic regulation.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said, “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision,” insinuating there is no option for those who want to hear a different side to a story than those like Limbaugh or Hannity’s.

By looking at the audiences who listen to each show, it is obvious U.S. citizens would rather listen to conservatives than liberals. However, that is not because there are few liberal talk shows.

Liberals actually created a liberal radio network (I refuse to call it progressive) called “Air America.” It ended quickly due to bankruptcy but is facing restructure and is back in business.

The reality is when the Fairness Doctrine was created, few talk-radio stations existed. On-air personality Rush Limbaugh described his start in radio and said, “When I started, there were 125 talk stations. Today there are 2,000. The idea that there are fewer ideas expressed, that there is less diversity, is absurd.”

Bob Grant, a New York radio legend, said he worked with the Fairness Doctrine governing his every word. “I must tell you that I am glad it is not in effect now,” Grant said. “But … don’t think that because the Democrats may ram the Fairness Doctrine back down our throats that it means you can’t continue. I am living proof that you can.”

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