From the desk of author Michael Solomon

Michael Solomon was a 15-year veteran of the New York City Police Department and served  in its drug enforcement division, receiving well over a dozen awards for his excellent service
Date: February 18, 2009   Vol. 4 2- Issue 2

Is all fair in love, war and talk radio?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."-- unless it interferes with the free speech of conservative talk radio.   If it were up to the Liberals in Congress, that last statement would be added to the first amendment.

It is known as the "Fairness Doctrine" which died over twenty-years ago. Some Liberal legislators now want it exhumed. It was eliminated then because it did not work and was found unnecessary because of the tremendous increase in outlets for expressing opinion. Then came the Internet, which expanded that opportunity for expression even further in the name of blogs.

Let us be honest with each other, there is nothing wrong with fairness. Who could be against being fair? We expect it in the officials that officiate our professional sports teams, the teachers that grade our children in school or anyone else that we charge with overseeing the rules and regulations that guide our daily lives and activities.

However, what may seem fair to one person may not seem fair to another. I am talking about another kind of fairness. The dominance of talk-radio that some believe is one-sided. Is it that Conservative talk radio is acting in an anti-trust like manner by dominating the air waves or is it just being fair, balanced and competitive? There is no doubt in my mind that the reason is the latter.

When you examine the history of talk radio over the past years you will simply find that Conservative talk radio has survived because they have become the voice of the American people. They give the people a fair and balanced voice. People, who ordinarily would not be heard, can now pick up their telephones and have their voices and ideas heard from coast to coast. Sounds like "Government of the people by the people." They do it as entertainment and many times with humor.

Liberal Talk radio hosts present their shows with vile verbal attacks against anyone who is not of their ilk and they do it with ire.  It is not entertainment,  it is a violent declamation of rancor without substance or facts.

There are two parts to the Fairness Doctrine. The first and paramount rule requires each broadcast licensee to broadcast coverage of controversial issues of public importance. This ensures that every broadcaster meets its duty to inform Americans about public issues. The second rule of the Fairness Doctrine states that there must be balance in covering these issues.

Two consequences of the doctrine, the "Personal Attack" rule and the "Political Editorial" rule, remained in practice until 2000. The "Personal Attack" rule was pertinent whenever a group or person was subject to a character assassination during a broadcast. Media stations had to inform such persons or groups within one-week of the attack. They were also required to send them a transcript of what transpired and offer them the opportunity to respond on the air. The "Political Editorial" rule applied when a station would broadcast an editorial endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. The candidate not endorsed must be notified and given an opportunity to respond.

The Supreme Court has said in upholding the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969, "A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a... frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment, which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others.... It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount." The Court also said, "If the doctrine ever began to restrain speech, then its constitutionality should be reconsidered."

Without ruling the doctrine unconstitutional, the Court also concluded in a subsequent case (Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241) that the doctrine "inescapably dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate".

In an article by Val E. Limburg, he stated, "The fairness doctrine remains just beneath the surface of concerns over broadcasting and cable casting, and some members of congress continue to threaten to pass it into legislation. Currently, however, there is no required balance of controversial issues as mandated by the fairness doctrine. The public relies instead on the judgment of broadcast journalists and its own reasoning ability to sort out one-sided or distorted coverage of an issue.

Indeed, experience over the past several years since the demise of the doctrine shows that broadcasters can and do provide substantial coverage of controversial issues of public importance in their communities, including contrasting viewpoints, through news, public affairs, public service, interactive and special programming."

Liberal talk radio has the same opportunity as Conservative talk radio. However, radio stations are businesses and when there are no listeners, there are low ratings, which equates to no sponsors. No sponsors, no income, no income, no Liberal talk radio. Why would you want to stay in business if you keep losing money day after day? Al Franken, former host on Air America is the perfect example. Whose fault is that? Rush Limbaugh? Some Liberals in Congress are trying to get you to believe it.

If you do not believe me, my suggestion is to conduct the following experiment. Every time I try to call in to a conservative talk show such as, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager, Jerry Doyle, Mike Gallagher and others, I just keep getting a busy signal. If I do get through, I can be on hold for one-half-hour before I get to express my opinion or speak my mind. When I call a Liberal show such as Randi Rose,or Alan Colmes, etc., I get right through. This leads me to believe that no one is listening or no one cares. Maybe that is one of the reasons that Air America has filed for bankruptcy protection a year ago..

In addition, the call screeners working in conservative radio will allow callers with diverse opinions to express their views. This is not what I have found with Liberal talk radio shows. I have had call screeners tell me the host was not interested in an argumentative point of view at this time. So who is being fair and balanced?

Why does Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator's John Kerry, Dick Durbin, Harry Reid, Charles Schumer (who equated it to pornography)  and others want to silence Americans? Sounds like fear to me. Fear of allowing the silent majority to be heard?  Remember when they blamed conservative talk radio for the defeat of the "Immigration Bill."  Do you believe that it was talk radio that caused all but three Republican legislatures to vote against the "Stimulus Bill." 

It was not talk radio that caused it. It was their listeners who had and have the opportunity to express their views on a variety of subjects-- the "Immigration and Stimulus Bills" are just some of them.  I am sure there will be more to come.  Of course, you could always write a letter to the editor of any newspaper. However, do you really believe the Liberal Left print media would publish them? Don't bet on that one.

Therefore, when Conservative Talk Radio plays by the rules, with or without the "Fairness Doctrine" and builds a better mousetrap whose fault is that. Liberal talk radio has been around a lot longer than Conservative Talk radio, which is really a new phenomenon.

Remember, it is the second mouse that gets the cheese.

And, that is my opinion.

Michael Solomon

Author of "Where Did My America Go?"


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