For example, who gets to decide what is vitally important? It says broadcast licensees are required to provide coverage of vitally important controversial issues. Who says? Who decides what issues are vitally important? Who decides what’s controversial? For example, it is said that this is a controversial program, but since most people that listen to me agree with me, seriously, where’s the controversy? Where’s the controversy? The controversy only appears from those who disagree, and they claim they don’t listen. So what’s the controversy? But more than that, who decides what it is? And don’t forget that in the First Amendment to the Constitution is this little troubling thing that says Congress shall make no law abridging… and we get to the free speech clause. So keep that in mind. That’s what campaign finance reform so offends me. It is a direct violation of the First Amendment. And it is a violation of the First Amendment specifically by those prohibited to do so. “Congress shall make no law…” And they have made a law, and the reason they did was they were tired of being criticized by us. And so they don’t want to be criticized. The elites in the political class have written the campaign finance law, which basically is to stifle any criticism of them 30 or 60 days before an election. It’s the Incumbent Guaranteed Re-election Act of 2001, whenever the hell it was signed, and the Fairness Doctrine is basically the same thing. The Fairness Doctrine is a bunch of members of Congress saying they don’t like being criticized in the media, and so we’re going to institute the Fairness Doctrine to stop it.
How many contrasting viewpoints are required? It says here the coverage of vitally important, controversial issues of interest in the community served by the licensee and to provide a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints. How many contrasting viewpoints are required? Now, in 1979, the FCC itself admitted that it had never even defined what the community served by the licensee referred to. Was it a neighborhood, a city, a region? Could it be, in the case of a national program like mine, the whole country? I mean, is that what this is supposed to mean? In truth, folks, the Fairness Doctrine means what three of five FCC members say it means, three government officials appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate and given annual operating budgets by the Congress. That’s who determines what the Fairness Doctrine means. Now, here’s the practical application of it. And this is why you are hearing people say it could bring an end to programs like this. And by the way, the Fairness Doctrine was gotten rid of in 1987 by the Reagan administration, and remember the purpose of the Fairness Doctrine as stated, it’s supposed to open up the expression of ideas. It’s supposed to bring fairness. It’s supposed to make sure that everybody gets a chance at the public microphone, right? So in 1987, with the Fairness Doctrine, there were about 125 stations in the country doing talk radio. When they got rid of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 – and it happened to coincide with this program starting in 1988 – today there are 1200 to 1400 stations doing talk. Without the Fairness Doctrine, you got more opportunity to hear more views, contrasting and otherwise, than you’ve ever had in this country. Add the Internet to it and what’s happening on cable TV. There is not one point of view being choked off in this country. Nobody is denied a chance at access to audiences. And because of that, the Fairness Doctrine’s struck down in ’87 and the number of talk formatted stations, 125 to 1400. Part of it is the success of this program causing emulators, but part of it is the Fairness Doctrine as well.
Now, the reason that there were only 125 talk stations throughout the era when the Fairness Doctrine was in use, was because you have somebody on the air who says something controversial, somebody in the community calls the station and demands a chance to respond. Maybe five people call and demand a chance to respond. At some point, management and ownership of radio stations say it’s not worth it. I’m just not going to put anything on that’s controversial. I’m not going to mess with it. I’m going to play, you know, polka music; I’m going to ply Chinese opera, whatever it is. I’m not going to mess with this because I don’t have time to deal with all these malcontents that are calling. And so just to keep the government off their back, to keep government regulators off their back and to keep all these people in the community demanding equal time or fairness or whatever off the back, they just don’t put on what is called controversial programming. And that is where the theory is that programs like this will cease, is that station owners locally are just not going to put up with the hassle. It’s not that there’s a federal dictate that we have to cease. It’s that local station management just won’t put up with the trouble. That’s the objective of the liberals behind the movement now.
Now, what makes this attempt by the Democrats to re-institute the Fairness Doctrine different from the effort in 1993 is this time it has the help of Republicans. There are Republicans in the Senate helping the Democrats re-institute the Fairness Doctrine. Among them Trent Lott. And that’s what The Wall Street Journal editorial today focuses on. Again, it’s entitled “The Stop Rush Campaign.” Let me just give you a few excerpts to give you the flavor: “Republicans love to complain that they don’t get a fair shake from the elites running the nation’s airwaves and newspapers, which has us wondering why they’re helping their political opponents muzzle the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Ever since the FCC’s June decision to allow broadcast TV owners to own a few more stations, liberals have been channeling George Orwell, claiming Big Brother broadcasters are, ‘a threat to democracy’ that will stifle ‘diversity of view.'”
Remember, I just illustrated for you how diversity of view expanded exponentially when they got rid of the Fairness Doctrine. In 1987, the Fairness Doctrine gets zapped. There were 125 talk radio stations in the country then. Today there are 1400. Or 1200. Somewhere in between there. Without the Fairness Doctrine, this format is among the most popular in all of radio, and it is still growing. There have been more jobs created in this format than any other in radio. There’s no shortage of any point of view on radio or TV today. And yet they are claiming that without the Fairness Doctrine, diversity of view has been stifled. And with the aid of many Republicans, they have already blocked the new rules in the House and they may pass a resolution on Monday to do the same thing in the Senate. Now, this is key, too, folks, because these FCC rules that we’ve been talking about here and that everybody else has been talking about, you think, because this is the focus and the reporting, you think this has to do with ownership. And it does. I mean certainly that’s part of it. But as part of the new rules on ownership, and the Democrats’ attempt to roll them back and the Republicans’ attempt to roll them back, they’ve thrown in the reinforcement of the fairness doctrine as well. Back to the Journal.
We’ve addressed the substance of this issue several times, but the truth is that this crusade has little to do with the merits. Anyone who channel-surfs or roams the Internet knows America isn’t suffering from any lack of news sources. What’s really driving the politicians is the desire for revenge against their media enemies. “On the left, this means returning to the days before deregulation opened the airwaves to the populist political right. Liberals know what has happened since the FCC abandoned the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. That rule required radio and TV stations to provide ‘balanced’ news coverage. In practice, it discouraged stations from touching controversial subjects, so that in 1980 there were a mere 75 talk radio stations.”
And again, just to illustrate the practical result of it, so you don’t get confused, if the Fairness Doctrine is in force, it means that anything a listener considers controversial – he can call a radio station, demand the opportunity to respond to it, because it’s deemed to be unfair, and that opens up local stations to an uncontrollable bit of pressure on their programming. And so rather than deal with all that, they simply get rid of what anybody thinks is controversial programming and you’re back to milk toast and you can say good-bye to AM radio. It wouldn’t exist anymore. Nobody is going to listen to music on AM radio for any length of time and nobody is going to listen to the latest baking recipes for the holidays, and that’s what you’d get. You’d get stuff that’s non-controversial to anybody because management just wouldn’t want to put up with it. That’s the practical result of the imposition of the Fairness Doctrine.
Back to the Journal editorial: On the left, this means returning to the days before deregulation opened the airwaves to the populist political right. Today, thanks to the end of that Fairness Doctrine, there are 1,300 talk radio stations. But to the horror of the political left, the hosts who have prospered on radio are primarily conservative, like Rush Limbaugh, with 20 million listeners because of his humor and optimism. And may I add because I’m right. Meanwhile, because cable and satellite are not regulated the way broadcasters are, there has been successes on Fox News. And they talk about here in the editorial about the success Fox has had against CNN.
The only reason these new media voices have succeeded is because people want to hear them. There’s no public clamor for the top-down regulation Congress wants, beyond the crowd that donates during National Public Radio pledge week. Americans like their media choices and would rather not go back to the days when Walter Cronkite was their main, scintillating news source.
Liberals, on the other hand, are almost transparent in their aim to do precisely that. During July’s House floor debate, Michigan Democrat John Dingell explained that once they roll back the FCC ownership expansion liberals can then move to reverse another recent FCC decision to allow companies to own TV stations and newspapers in the same market. They may then go to town on New York Representative Maurice Hinchey’s proposal to revive the Fairness Doctrine and complicate life for Rush Limbaugh.
What’s amazing – and this is the thrust, now, of the Journal editorial. This is where we’re getting to the meat and potatoes of this now. What’s amazing is how oblivious Republicans are to this stop-Rush game. So eager are Senators Trent Lott and Kay Bailey Hutchison to paste a defeat on their local media enemies that they’re willing to punish all media companies. For their part, House Republicans have fallen for the lobbying of local TV and newspapers that want Congressional protection from takeover bids; Members are too frightened by what kind of coverage they’ll get next election to just say no. At least the White House seems to understand the stakes, and President Bush has suggested he’ll veto any bill that rolls back the FCC rules. But House Republicans are said to be about 40 votes short of the 146 or so needed to sustain a veto. If Republicans can’t rally behind their President on something so clearly in their own interest, they deserve to suffer the bias of Dan Rather and Katie Couric. And, hopeless as this point might be, they might also consider that standing up for free-market principles and deregulation is one reason they came to Washington in the first place.
This justified attack on Republicans is all about is actually multi-pronged but you can synthesize it down to one thing. Republicans are just scared to death now. They’re afraid of the New York Times editoral page. Robert Novak had a column yesterday describing just the palpable fear that exists in the Senate among Republicans on how to deal with the judicial filibuster that the Democrats have mounted and that they just are clueless. They have no way to go and that they’re depressed.
And you add to it now this effort to re-institute the Fairness Doctrine and there may be a little something personal here where Senator Lott is concerned. After his statements about Strom Thurmond, the media piled all over him and he may just be wanting to get back at local media, he may be wanting to get back at national media as well. This may be a way that he can get back for whatever he thinks was unfair and unjustified where he was concerned in the media. But the president’s threatened to veto all this, and Trent Lott has said let him veto it. I’ll put this in a piece of legislation that’s veto-proof. So Lott apparently is loaded for bear on this. I’m not sure exactly where Kay Bailey Hutchison is on this, but this implies that she’s having some trouble with local media in Dallas and is eager to do anything that will punish them or restrict that they can say. I’m telling you folks, just like campaign finance reform, what you have here is the – and it’s primarily liberals, let’s not be confused about this – but this is the first time that there has been some Republican assistance on this, and by the way, you know, I want to go so far as to say something here. This may surprise some of you, it may surprise you Mr. Snerdley, but I’m frankly not surprised there would be some Republicans who would want to inflict damage on this program and other conservative programs. After all, we’re critical of them too. And they’re just like the Democrats. They’d just as soon not be criticized. And it may be worse to be criticized by your so-called friends. I mean, I’ve harbored no illusions that all those people in Washington are my friends. Never have been under that illusion and I’ve never thought otherwise and I’ve never tried to make it the case. They come and go. That’s why I said my success is not determined by who wins elections.
There’s another aspect of this – the website Moveon.org, the website the Clintons established during the impeachment. They’ve already generated 400,000 e-mails of support to both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. So you can see where this is headed. It looks like in Washington that there’s a lot of popular support for this. A, for rolling back the ownership opportunities of local television stations, and it really has nothing to do with radio, the ownership does, and there appears in Washington if you’re a Congressman and based on your mail, there appears to be a national ground swell of support for re-instituting the Fairness Doctrine. Let me tell you something, these liberals doing this talk radio network, they know it’s not going to work. They know they’re not going to have the slightest chance; they know they’re not going to get anywhere near the kind of audiences we have. And believe me, the effort what most liberals would just love to engage in is just silence any voices of opposition. They can’t beat us, and so what they want to do is shut us down and as I say, this is the second time this has happened in my 15 years. First time was ’93. That’s why I a wrote a whole chapter on it in my second book, “See, I Told You So.”
Now, it’s back, 10 years later. This time it has the assistance of Republicans. There is a website, Americans For Tax Reform has set up a satellite website. That’s Grover Norquist’s group. It is StopMediaRegulation.org — and don’t make me spell that. I mean stop media regulation. There’s no tricks in it. StopMediaRegulation.org. You can go there. It will explain somewhat, as well, what I have just explained to you, and it will also offer you an opportunity to send e-mail to members of Congress based on your ZIP Code, if you want to. Now, I’ve never advocated that, as you know. I have never ever sat here, well, I did it one time to conduct a test to show a stubborn reporter for U.S. News, Steve Roberts, what would happen if I did. Because I was in the midst of being accused of doing it every day. And I wasn’t. And I wanted to show him what would happen every day if I was. So we did, and it shut down the Capitol Hill switchboard for an hour at noon. So I don’t do it. And I really don’t want to expressly suggest doing it now. I would rather leave it up to you. So that’s what I’m going to do. But just be aware that the moveon.org people are out there at 400,000 now. I don’t know how serious this is, well, I know how serious the intent is. I don’t know how serious the end result is. I don’t know how seriously in danger we are here. I mean there are court fights, challenges that would result from all this, but it ought not even get to this point. I mean the idea that this elite political class thinks it’s above criticism? They’ve already succeeded in this with campaign finance reform and now they’re just simply complaining that there’s not a wide enough diversity of viewpoints out there when it’s clearly just the opposite?
So it ought not be a surprise to anybody, actually. These people are thin-skinned and they don’t believe they ought to be criticized and I’ll tell you something else. I could be wrong about this. I think one of the things pushing this, two people, John McCain and Tom Daschle. They both probably would love to stick it to this program based on what they think this program has done. I mean, Daschle has complained openly about this program, and so has McCain, and we can imagine where their votes are going to be on this. So you take that and you put it in the hopper and you do with it what you think you need to do.
Read More of Rush’s Coverage…
(eStack: Elites Don’t Like Choices You Make)