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What Conspiracy? Talk Radio's Roar, From Right & Left

Bill Press is a smart and thoughtful liberal who has had a long and successful career in the TV and radio punditry biz. Yet there he was in Sunday's Post bemoaning the loss of "Obama 1260," the left-leaning Washington talk radio station that morphed into an all-financial advice outlet this week.

The way Press tells it, the loss of that format on WWRC, which had so few listeners it sometimes didn't register at all in the Arbitron ratings, amounts to an unfair allocation of the public airwaves, even a conspiracy to silence voices from the left.

Press is so exercised about this--his syndicated show was, after all, the morning drivetime programming on the station--that he's even calling for the return of the Fairness Doctrine, the long-discarded regulatory scheme by which the federal government prevented radio and TV stations from airing much in the way of controversial political programming.

Despite the passionate desire of some Democrats to see the likes of Rush Limbaugh silenced through regulatory trickery, the fact is that no one is going to restore a set of rules that made no sense when they were erased in 1987 and would be downright absurd in the digital age. More on that in a moment, but first, just a couple of facts:

Much as Press may lament the loss of his Washington outlet, it's simply not even close to true that, as he puts it, with the demise of Obama 1260, "our nation's capital, where Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House, and where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to one, will have no progressive voices on the air."

Yes, the #8-rated station in the market, WMAL (630 AM), airs non-stop conservative talk hosts of the Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Mark Levin ilk. And another right-wing talk station, WTNT (570 AM), the corporate sister of Obama 1260, will remain on the air despite scoring ratings every bit as anemic as the liberal talkers received.

Michael Baisden
Michael Baisden has been a reliable supporter of Barack Obama. (Courtesy of Michael Baisden)

But Press conveniently left out a plethora of liberal talkers heard every day in this market, from the market's #1 station, WHUR (96.3 FM), which features the Michael Baisden Show, which was a nonstop Obama campaign machine throughout the fall, to the #3 station in the market, Majic 102.3, where the morning host is Tom Joyner, a reliably liberal voice whose lovesong to Obama is currently featured on the station's home page. The liberal lineup includes another all-talk station, WOL (1450 AM), where hosts such as Joe Madison and Al Sharpton dish out just as partisan and powerful a menu of provocative talk as do the yakkers of the right.

Why didn't Press include any of these shows or stations in his rant against the purported domination of the airwaves by conservative voices? Might it be because all of the above hosts are black and their shows air on stations that are black-run and oriented toward a black audience? Blacks are the most devoted radio listeners in this or any other U.S. market. Why are they ignored in the liberal argument that radio is an all-right-wing zone?

But liberal voices on the radio in Washington are not limited to what the industry calls "urban" radio. Pacifica's WPFW (89.3 FM) offers the daily "Democracy Now!" news and commentary program, hosted by Amy Goodman, one of the country's leading left-wing voices, as well as at least five other hours a day of news and talk from a left, and often radical left, perspective. Then there's public radio: Although National Public Radio in recent years has made a concerted and generally successful effort to include more conservative voices in its commentaries and other programming, the fact remains that its audience skews liberal, and that colors many of the call-in and other talk shows on public radio.

As I've argued in a piece on, there is yet another oasis of liberal, or at least left libertarian, expression on the radio, and that is the shock jocks and morning zoo shows that are generally not thought of as political programming, but which nonetheless consist of hours and hours of rants on behalf of civil liberties, sexual freedom, and the rights of the little guy against the nation's big corporations and institutions.

So, do Press and like-minded listeners really want a return to the Fairness Doctrine, or are they just jealous that Limbaugh and a couple of other conservative talkers continue to draw strong ratings even as most of the old media lose audience to newfangled communications streams?

Perhaps Press is merely frustrated by the low ratings numbers he and his colleagues draw. Nobody wants to go back to the days when the FCC mandated how and when "opposing voices" might get their moment on the air ("Yes, sir, we'd be glad to put that on the air; would you prefer 4 a.m. on Sunday, or 3 a.m. on Monday?") And nobody wants to return to the bland tripe that aired on most talk stations before the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine opened the airwaves to all voices.

But in the end, the main reason there will be no new Fairness Doctrine is that time and technology have left the old concept of talk radio in the dust. On the Internet, a cacophony of voices ring out, most of them reaching hardly anyone, and nearly all of them being heard only by like-minded people. The real information problem our society faces has nothing to do with one perspective being drowned out by another; rather, our deepening media problem is that we are cleaving into two societies, each with its own, separate version of the truth, each startlingly segregated from the other.

The glory of the new media era is that anyone and everyone can sing out their message. The flip side of that democratic blossoming of voices is that without the scarcity of outlets that once forced us all to share the same information, we can and do drift off into separate realities. Drowning in an ocean of digitalia, we see and hear each other less than ever before.


By Marc Fisher |  February 10, 2009; 8:21 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Problem is liberal dont have anyone like the the gay men's postter child Sean Hannity, Rush or the new Twiggy Ann Coulter to spout their hate and garbage.

press needs to grow up and realize he wasnt any good as a liberal radio pundit and either redo his Schtick or give up radio becuase he sucks.

I am an independent who votes for the best candidate not for aprty or ideology. never listened to druggie Rush on the radio becuase his views and that of his Nazi listeners arent any where clsoe to mine.

And poor Sean he is so pretty but doesnt have a clue on either the radio or Fox.

Stimulus plan wont work as wirtten sorry Prez. Spending just doesnt do it. It wont change attitudes and get people to spend and hire.
An attitude change is needed not massive spending. And lets stop bailing out banks and Wall Street. They need to fail but bailing out GM, Ford and Chrysler will work.

Posted by: sheepherder | February 10, 2009 8:44 AM

Don't diss the fairness doctrine Marc. Even Republicans need to hear the truth sometimes.

Corporate media promotes corporate interests. These are the people's airwaves, we lease them in our own interest. Right wing propaganda is in noone's interest but right wingers.

The Fairness Doctrine insures an educated public, which is what we need after eight years of an idiot in chief.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | February 10, 2009 9:19 AM

Thing is, the conservative hatemongers rail against the "mainstream media" or MSM when it suits their purposes ... until, of course, they become the MSM.

Posted by: bs2004 | February 10, 2009 9:33 AM

I believe the "Fairness Doctrine" is not needed. If the "progressive" radio stations were prevented from airing, that would be one thing. However, if they air and no one listens, that's what competition is all about. Again, this is the difference between equality of opportunity versus equality of outcomes. The opportunity is the same, but the outcome isn't - and liberals use that as evidence of inequality. No, it's equal in opportunity. That's all that counts.

Posted by: rocco411 | February 10, 2009 9:57 AM

Interesting read, especially the last two paragraphs. bs2004, anarcho-liberal-tarian, and sheepherder drive home the "we see and hear each other less than ever before" point fairly well.

With the plethera of options available, people are gravitating to programs that only see their point of view, and unfortunately are hardening their convictions into the "We're right, you're wrong" camps.

Posted by: joemdavis55 | February 10, 2009 10:03 AM

WWRC got poor ratings because it's signal doesn't reach much of the D.C. area.

In markets where progressive talk is on stations that can actually be heard it's done well.

KPOJ in Portland, Oregon ranks a strong number four overall and number two among the AM stations in the market.

WWRC also got poor ratings in its previous incarnations as a sports and business station and will continue to get poor ratings no matter what its format may be.

Posted by: GingersDad | February 10, 2009 10:55 AM

Partisan, bomb throwing radio is moronic, regardless of it's politics.

Just because pigs look happy in their own sh**, doesn't mean we all should join them.

Posted by: JkR- | February 10, 2009 11:22 AM

Sorry Mark, way off base. And yes, corporations ARE preventing progressive voices from being heard. And if they are on the air, they are on a weak signal that is usually cut off at sunset. There is no real variety on the air, not when a handful of mega corporations own all the radio stations. So, break up the radio monopolies and you'd get a lot more voices on the radio. And let's change the rules on how much range a radio station has. Those rules were established in the 1930s for pete's sake. And yes, I listen to liberal radio, and I wish Randi Rhodes was on locally, but I stream her out of Denver.

Posted by: EAHarrison | February 10, 2009 11:28 AM

What kind of loser listens to talk radio anyway? I always assumed that liberals read blogs because liberals are literate and interested in learning; and conservatives listen to idiots like Limbaugh and Hannity because, well, they've got a long history of listening to demagogues and imbeciles and just can't get enough propaganda.

Posted by: icoleman | February 10, 2009 12:01 PM

Since talk radio listeners are pretty much the "Hey, you kids get off my lawn" demographic, Rush can have it.

Posted by: spidey103 | February 10, 2009 12:04 PM

Sorry EAHarrison, but you must be smoking dope if you think the corporations are making a concerted effort to keep liberal talk off the air. If those loser liberal talk radio hosts could get ratings they wouldn't have any problems finding stations to broadcast them.

It's all about the money. That's all the station owners care about, both large and small.

Remember how badly Air-America radio bombed? I wonder if they've paid that Boy Scout troop back the money they swindled from them.

Posted by: urallimbeciles | February 10, 2009 12:44 PM

The whole excuse used by the left on this argument is that, since the airwaves are "public" property (which is why stations must get a license from the federal government) stations should be required to program for the public "good" (i.e., bland programs that neither cater to nor offend any listener). The better solution is to make the airwaves private by auctioning off the AM and FM radio spectrum just as we did for the cell phone industry. The highest bidder gets a spot on the radio dial. If Bill Press wants 1260, make an offer for it. If he's successful in buying that spot on the dial, he better be able to attract an audience and advertisers to pay for it. Seems this approach would be far better and responsive to various segments of the public (albeit not as politically correct) than having some bureaucrats impose rules that can just as easily be gamed today as they were under the old fairness doctrine.

Posted by: bbahler | February 10, 2009 12:46 PM

"So, break up the radio monopolies and you'd get a lot more voices on the radio."

This argument is superficially tempting, but it ignores the history of radio in this country. AM radio was almost dead under the Fairness Doctrine. No one was listening. It was only when the rules were relaxed that there was true diversity in opinions.

The simple fact is that liberals don't like talk radio because conservatives do well in the format. But I'll trade you, if you want. Apply the Fairness Doctrine to radio, but also Comedy Central. Make Jon Stewart tell an Obama joke for every Bush joke he's told over the years.

Posted by: wapo9 | February 10, 2009 1:05 PM

EAHarrison: "There is no real variety on the air, not when a handful of mega corporations own all the radio stations. So, break up the radio monopolies and you'd get a lot more voices on the radio."

The (seeming) uniformity on radio might be due to the cost savings by a few megacorporations owning all the stations.

BUT... even in situations where megacorporations don't own the stations, there is too much uniformity. Take public radio stations for example. If they are talk stations, they air NPR's stuff: ME, ATC, Car Talk, etc.; and some PRI or APM stuff: TAL. If they are music, it is typically a bland flavor or classical or jazz, sort of an eternal pop-400 format with nothing modern, no songs, and nothing longer than an hour because they don't want to miss the next news break.

You can break up the ownership of stations by these few megacorporations but you also will need to break up the distribution system of radio content. (Perhaps by limiting the number of hours a station can air mass distributed content?)

Posted by: prokaryote | February 10, 2009 1:38 PM

Press is nothing more than another left wing loser who cannot seem to carve out a niche on radio. Considering the plethora of spanish speaking am programs - thats pretty lame. How can spanish speaking programs somehow evade the crushing tentacles of right wing dominance and poor little Bill (and Air America, and all the other left wing loser stations) can't?

Could it be that not enough people wanted to listen to him, therefore the advertisers were not there, therefore revenue wasn't there?????

So now what does he do? Go back to the drawing board and attempt to come up with a gig which works? No, he whines and babbles about others who did find things which worked.

Maybe he can go to work at NPR. They stay alive with taxpayer funding - but even so, they probably have no use for that boat anchor.

Fairness my as*. This is not about fairness - the ultimate example of that is what we have today. Popular shows stay on the air and losers don't.

I think it is very illustrative of the childish mindset of leftist that they have to have everything or they throw tantrums. As it is, they have ABC,NBC,CBS,MSNBC (for whatever that is worth) and just about every major printed publication in America.

Maybe America should insist on having balance to the Matthews/Olberman freak shows. Problem is, I doubt any respectable personality would want to be anywhere near them.

Posted by: VirginiaConservative | February 10, 2009 2:09 PM

The liberal voice is hampered by the same things every radio format must have to be successful. (1), a signal. Most liberal talk stations have poor signals vs. the 50,000 watt stations Rush Limbaugh is on. (2) No breakout on-air personality that is "fun" to listen. Bill Press is a perfect example of the lack of strong, entertaining personalities in liberal radio.

Posted by: kasperson | February 10, 2009 2:39 PM

>> KPOJ in Portland, Oregon ranks a strong number four overall and number two among the AM stations in the market. <<

The above is emperical evidence A that the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" is not needed. Emperical evidence B is the fact that the current Democratic liberal U.S. President was elected in a near-landslide.

Corporate radio has primarily left-leaning CEOs and upper management, but they know they are there to make money. They will always put on the programming that brings the best results, whether it's in Portland or in Dallas.

Posted by: rocco411 | February 10, 2009 2:42 PM

I also agree that this argument is becoming less and less relevant as time goes on, simply because the audience for terrestrial radio is dwindling. What difference will it make in 2019 when about 1/20 the number that are listening now will be listening then?

Posted by: rocco411 | February 10, 2009 2:46 PM

I listen to CSPAN rather than be bombarded with R-Pub-Li-Can propaganda. At least I get to choose whose opinions I want to believe, unlike the Hannity's Insane or the Rush Wingnuts. Fascism is alive and well in America! I am sick and tired of Fox Republican News and Republican Talk Radio trying to pass themselves of as anything near legitimate. If not for CSPAN and NPR there would be nowhere to turn for legitimate news and political discourse.

Posted by: old_sarge | February 10, 2009 2:56 PM

Who the Hell wrote this column and what did he do with the real Marc Fisher? The next thing you know, Gene Robinson will be criticizing Al Sharpton.

Posted by: hisroc | February 10, 2009 3:19 PM

I find it pretty funny that all these liberals that consider themselves of such superior intelligence somehow can't operate a simple radio sufficiently to either change channels or locate the "OFF" button when they stumble across something they don't want to hear.

Posted by: gitarre | February 10, 2009 3:44 PM


How can you compare Michael Baisden to Rush and Sean Hannity??


I am a black person who listens to conservative radio, but am a realist. I can tell you, Baisden isn't in the same category as Conservative talking heads.

If you haven't noticed, a Black was running for office and 99.9% of Blacks in the Media were in the tank for him in the 1st place. I doubt a white person would go listen to Michael Baiseden and all of his sex talk and church bashing on top of being in the tank..........

Posted by: RightWay | February 10, 2009 4:33 PM

Maybe liberals and other intelligent Obama supporters have better things to do with their time than listen to talk radio. Instead of worrying about Rush, let's just ignore him, OK?
(Air America was pretty good for a while there when Rachel Madow and Al Franken were on, but both went on to better things and it just couldn't stay alive.)

Posted by: fmjk | February 10, 2009 4:49 PM

Why can't liberals make it in talk radio? Why won't they listen to talk radio?

It could be most of them would rather smoke pot than listen to liberals blow smoke.

And a lot of them would rather listen to rap music than listen to liberals rap about politics.

In Washington, a lot of people may have voted "straight Democratic" but are completely uninterested in public affairs.

Posted by: ArtKelly | February 10, 2009 7:38 PM

The fairness doctrine turns on it head "freedom of speech and of the press" which is a Constitution right guaranteed all citizens. It is patently and outrageously unconstitutional and should be identified as such. We want to listen and watch whomever is able and willing to articulate the issues in an intelligent manner. Fairness is a euphemism for state control of the press. Eliminating a free press is characteristic of dictators and communists.

Posted by: shearwatersoil | February 11, 2009 10:50 AM

For Mr. Press and all the supporters of the "fairness" doctrine...why stop with political talk radio? Should not ESPN & the networks carry as much lacrosse, pro bowling or womens soccer as they do the NFL or NBA? And I personally feel that daytime network TV UNFAIRLY carries far too many shows devoted to women's interests...thus, please include WW2 documentaries after "The View", and sandwich "South Park" in between "All my children" and "general hospital" please. And I find it completely UNFAIR that Univsion runs all their programming in Spanish. I cant even understand what they are saying, so if you could get then to please add some English programming (and some Korean shows as well), it would be most appreciated....

After all, lets be fair.....

Posted by: pgiven24 | February 11, 2009 11:11 AM

Indeed, the real problem has always been that large numbers of people have been able to shield themselves from exposure to opposing points of view. I love the fact that my conservative of views are challenged everywhere I turn. That keeps me thinking. The problem with the left is that there are so many places in media where their views are validated that any time they find them challenged they feel assaulted. That's absurd. It's healthy to have our views challenged. As certain as I am about my views, I would never annoint myself or anyone else to determine which opinions should be heard and when.

Posted by: gladdgolcom | February 11, 2009 11:50 AM

A few honest questions for the board: 1) who will determine what constitutes "liberal" or "conservative" views? The government? Does anyone trust the government to do this? 2) What about views other than liberal or conservative? Do Libertarians get equal time? How about Socialists, Communists, White Supremacists, neo-Nazis? and the biggest question of all, 3) Why does this only apply to talk radio? How about newspapers, television news programs, and how about television entertainment programs and movies? After all, these are public airwaves and protected institutions. Should the government look over these groups' shoulders to provide "balance" to every communication and maybe check the editorial decisions of what does and does not get communicated? Finally, if we are trying to ensure a diversity of views in all areas of communications, how about making sure that conservatives are roughly 48% of all college faculties, at least where those colleges accept any federal money? I suspect that Bill Press wouldn't really want the government promoting a "diversity of views" in all forms of communication. He only wants so-called "diversity" where the left doesn't already dominate and drown out conservative voices. As such, he is nothing more than a whining idealogue.

Posted by: MildlyAmused | February 11, 2009 1:50 PM

fmjk wrote: "(Air America was pretty good for a while there when Rachel Madow and Al Franken were on, but both went on to better things and it just couldn't stay alive.)"

LOL. Well, THAT is certainly one way to put it. However, more accurately stated, Air America went completely bankrupt because of low ratings, dwindling to non-existent ad revenues, and gross mis-management by liberal idealogues who knew next to nothing about running a business. Maddow and Franken abandoned this sinking ship because they were no longer getting paid.

Look, let's at least be honest. The reason that liberal talk radio has failed is that it doesn't attract a big enough audience. It is not a unique product because you can hear or read pretty much the same opinions everywhere else in the major media, including most newspapers, NPR, network TV, and on almost every college campus. Conservative talk radio succeeds because you cannot hear many conservative opinions in these other venues. Plus, the conservative talkers, so far, are simply more talented. The market place doesn't lie.

Posted by: MildlyAmused | February 11, 2009 2:02 PM

old_sarge wrote: "If not for CSPAN and NPR there would be nowhere to turn for legitimate news and political discourse."

I will give you that Brian Lamb, despite being a liberal himself, does try for some balance on C-SPAN. However, including NPR as a venue for "legitimate news and political discourse" shows a remarkable naivete or distorted view. A few years ago, NPR was reprimanded for sharing its donor lists with the Democratic National Committee. Do you think that the DNC wanted those lists because they were filled with conservatives??? LOL. NPR is one of THE most liberal and slanted news and opinion sources (see Bill Moyers). If you want balance, try the Christian Science Monitor, if you can still find it.

Posted by: MildlyAmused | February 11, 2009 2:22 PM

One of the nuggets I've gleaned from several radio sources is that Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who has been in the aggressive forefront of the campaign to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, is married to Tom Athans, who works extensively with left-wing radio organizations and was once the executive vice-president of Air America, the liberal radio syndicate that, despite massive publicity from major media, has failed miserably to win a national audience. Stabenow's outrageous conflict of interest has of course been largely ignored by the prestige press, which should have been demanding that she recuse herself from all political involvement with this issue.

Posted by: zavv | February 11, 2009 3:36 PM

anarcho-liberal-tarian writes "The Fairness Doctrine insures an educated public,"

I guess you'll blame free market competitive radio for your use of the word "insures" instead of the correct word ensure.

Posted by: jimplaw | February 11, 2009 4:54 PM

The way I see it, if they want a “Fairness Doctrine,” it should be across the board. Let us also apply this to Television, Cable, even sitcoms and the View. I want THOSE LIKE Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hanitty, Mark Levin, & Bill Orielly to start co-anchoring the news on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC as well as an equal quota of Conservatives on all of the Newspapers. Give Dennis Miller a late night talk show across from Leno & Letterman. All those morning talk shows on TV must be integrated with Conservatives; no tokenism will be tolerated. Instead of movies and TV showing conservatives of practicing religious faith as being somehow flawed, there must be an end to this religionism (I just made that word up. It kind of goes in the same category as racism, if you can get the drift). There have to be an equal number of able and capable religious people as there are regular stars (You know, the ones they write about in the Enquirer). This is just to start negotiations on the new, REAL, Fairness Doctrine, and I reserve the right to add to it as I deem necessary. I will also leave this open to our Conservative friends who might want to address some areas of discrimination that I may have missed.

Posted by: DL13 | February 11, 2009 5:22 PM

That's all we need, another Neo-Comm like Bill Press trying to peddle his leftist hate to all corners of the United States!

There's A good reason why the American People don't listen to the mind-numbing garbage and filth coming from the Neo-Communist Left-------------they're dull, boring and have no message, except their Communist Ideology Religious Beliefs.

Kinda makes a REAL American want to Puke!!!

Posted by: YankeeSoonerBill | February 11, 2009 5:43 PM

BTW, having once lived in the once great Sate of Iowa, I knew Tom Harken as a U.S. Representative.
The man was a total imbecile and numbskull then and an even bigger fool now that he's a U.S. Senator.

Sure glad he's not MY Senator----I'd be ashamed.

Posted by: YankeeSoonerBill | February 11, 2009 5:47 PM

If stations could make more money airing liberal talk radio than conservative talk radio, they would. Virtually every other medium favors liberals. What is FOX if not a conservative alternative to all the other left leaning stations? The circulation of the New York Times dwarfs that of the Washington Times. Likewise Newsweek, Time, The New Yorker versus National Review, The Weekly Standard.
And I don't see how the left is adversely affected. They control both houses of congress and the executive branch. Similarly, Republicans held the same advantage between 2000 and 2006.
The real problem is that liberal talk radio is God-Awful! Shrill like Lionel. Shrewish like Rhodes. It's unlistenable. All claims of "conspiracy" shield the claimant from a truth they are unwilling to face. You want more liberals on talk radio? Fire Shultz, Rhodes, Lionel (especially), and start Air America from scratch.
In sum, people will continue to tune you out unless you quit your infernal whining! No on wants to hear that.

Posted by: rowlandstebbins | February 11, 2009 9:58 PM

Ok, if the Liberal Fascists really want this, they should be required to carry Rush Limbaugh on all NPR and PBS stations from Noon to 3 PM EVERY DAY!

What's the matter liberals? Can't send us to the Gulags fast enough?

Posted by: NeverLeft | February 12, 2009 12:22 AM

So the good National Socialists don't want the free market to decide what is heard and where?

Heil Zero!

Posted by: NeverLeft | February 12, 2009 12:29 AM

I really don't think Democrats who've thought things through would ever want the "Fairness Doctrine". Such a regulation would lead to unintended negative consequences for them because it would also apply to local television stations that carry network programming, and I don't think they'd really want that.

Posted by: rocco411 | February 12, 2009 2:59 AM

I rarely comment on the WaPo blog, but I felt compelled to comment on this article. WWRC AM 1260 was the ONE progressive talk station amid a plethora of right wing conservative talk stations spewing bile almost 24/7. I completely agree with GingersDad above that the main reason 1260 got poor ratings is that it was such a weak station. I listened mostly while driving, but about half to 75 percent of the time, it got little to no reception in many parts of the metro area...and forget even trying to listen to it at home, as I could never get even an audible reception in the house for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Clue to station owners: If you want ratings, boost the power signal of the d**m station so it can be heard! I'm very unhappy that it changed programming format, and am pro- fairness doctrine, but revised so as to give alternative viewpoint talk formats an even chance on a level playing field. I'm also for anti-trust laws being strictly enforced so that 5 large conglomerates can't own/dominate all the MSM venues.

Posted by: rice2 | February 12, 2009 9:53 AM

Oh, and I was unable to stream the programming on 1260 because their website was down for many, many months. Let's see, a weak signal which no radio can pick up unless it happens to be positioned across the street from the broadcast studio, and a non-functioning website, therby quashing the streaming option -- while the other stations (which broadcast all the reichwingers) have very strong signals and consistently up to date websites with flawless streaming capability. Now tell me again how the corporate station owners really care about fairness in broadcasting.

Posted by: rice2 | February 12, 2009 10:04 AM

Once WIFI is in all the cars, it won't matter how strong a station is for it to be heard not only locally but also "around the world" as well, actually.

Posted by: rocco411 | February 12, 2009 11:05 PM

Out of curiosity, who regulates fairness? What is bias to me may not be to the person next to me, and vice versa. If that's the case, how can we ever be sure we're at 50/50, and where does it stop?

If fairness applies to the airwaves, shouldn't it apply everywhere else? For instance, college curriculum. Anyone who's ever attended a public or private university wouldn't argue that the courses are decidedly biased in one direction, and that the marketplace of ideas exists if you're a member of the ruling party -- otherwise you're marginalized.

And why stop there? What about religion? Or what about movies? Imagine editing a Michael Moore film to ensure it's 50/50? What about TV sitcoms or, gulp, Dave Letterman? HBO? What about foreign stations that broadcast in and out of the U.S.? I could go on forever...

This doctrine is absurd, and its mention only ignites the power of those on the right and draws even larger audiences. Who advises these folks advocating such lunacy? No person in sound mind would dare push this legislation forward, much less take it seriously.

Posted by: rukidding5 | February 13, 2009 6:58 PM

One other point -- what about the internet? How do we ensure that's 50/50? How can we ensure MoveOn provides equal and persuasive discourse on the right to counter its agenda? Who will count up the left wing sites and ensure they're countered with an equal number of right wing sites of equal quality?

Any other great ideas?

Posted by: rukidding5 | February 13, 2009 7:03 PM

Those of you claiming that the Air America and progressive shows failed because of the signal strength of AM 1260 are forgetting a significant fact: AM 1260 had better ratings as ProgressiveTalk1260 and as Obama1260 BEFORE the 2008 election. The problem isn't that 1260 couldn't ATTRACT an audience, it's that it LOST the audience it had. The fact of the drop in audience size is in the news stories reporting the switch in format. No one commenting here should be able to claim lack of knowledge on this point.

Air America has failed to find an audience most places it has been on. Portland and Minneapolis are the exceptions. Air America started life with a good-signal station in New York City and conspicuous advertising on bus shelters, billboards, etc. Nationally, there were millions of dollars in free publicity from newspapers. The result was that audiences sampled the network, then didn't tune in to any significant degree. The New York station, after over a year of trying to get an audience, had just half the audience of the Caribbean music it had replaced, and the station returned to that format. Seemingly, Caribbean music appeals to a puny niche, yet it outperformed Air America 2:1.

Air America shot itself down even further with ridiculous expenditures. Who knows why, but they had a staff of 100 to do the work done by 30 in normal broadcasting operations. The sheer lies told by its executives of having $30 million in operating capitol when it really had only $6 million, became embarrassments, and Al Franken blubbered about this in half-attempts to be honest with his listeners.

With NPR available nationally and Pacifica in key cities, Air America arguably wasn't even wanted by anyone, except those who wanted some showpiece competition to successful conservative stations. Air America had enough stations signed up to spread the costs, enough of the stations had good signals, yet Air America overspent and delivered a schedule of hosts who had no experience in radio. For all the name recognition that Al Franken brought to his show, he comes from different forms of media, but thrust himself full-time into a medium in which he had no experience. No wonder he mixed dumb detached comedy with long expanses of trying to be serious on serious topics but without the depth of a genuinely deep thinker. (The best shows that 1260 had going for it were the non-Air America shows, such as Stephanie Miller, who did bring with them the entertainment background of experience in radio. She may have been a knee-jerk thinker, but she kept her potpouri of sound clips moving along in a delightful way.)

Posted by: washpostdh | February 13, 2009 9:24 PM

Like many political endeavors, the catch phrase seems fair and just, but too few catch the truth because they're too lazy to dig for it. The Fairness Doctrine is yet another of such.

I suppose it might be fair if they can require media to balance their choices of sources and opinions to air. I suppose it might be fair if they can require a news story to convey balanced and opposing opinions so viewers can decide. I suppose it might be fair to require the fair vetting of political candidates. I suppose it might be fair to require all known facts to be reported instead of selecting what fits the editors' world views.

I suppose it might be fair if law could require the court of public opinion, manifested through the media, to take on the rules courts of law are subject to. At least in a court of law, both sides have equal opportunity to argue their facts and dispute those offered by the other. Perhaps the Fairness Doctrine would bring the airwaves closer to similar fairness. Don't be fooled - it can do no such thing.

We don't live in such a world such fairness could be legislated, and if we did, we wouldn't have freedom of speech. The Fairness Doctrine would devolve us toward the political conditions that motivated those who started this country. We live in a mass media world where either the prosecutor is also the defense or the defense is also the prosecutor. This is visible in the sound empirical evidence we've seen from the rock-solid science of relevant studies; it is a matter of record: the mainstream media is predominantly left leaning.

Conservative talk radio is a threat to the liberal-leaning media - it undermines their efforts of persuasion. We don't want a reverse situation either - for such would stifle the progress in society we've enjoyed.

In short, it would be impossible to effectively regulate such a law, and depending on the world view of who interprets and enforces it, it would be unjust to the opposite side. I highly suspect that the current mainstream media would thrive and be emboldened in their world views ever the more under the Fairness Doctrine. Again, don't be fooled, and try to level your perceptual playing field - try to look at the world on an even keel.

If you were worried about potential privacy invasion through the national security efforts by a President wanting to protect your life, be very worried about a law that could someday silence the voices you listen to. After all, we will believe what we are most exposed to.

Posted by: GrabeMD | February 13, 2009 10:17 PM

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