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Some Fairness Doctrine History:

You may have seen snippets of this account before, as I have; here, though, is a pretty substantial excerpt, from Fred W. Friendly, The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the First Amendment, pp. 39-42 (1975):

Bill Ruder, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Kennedy years and an acknowledged leader in public relations, says frankly, "Our massive strategy [in the early 1960s] was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue." ...

[Arthur Larson, chair of NCCR, one of the groups used for this purpose], who had long been a target of the radical right, recalls his role in the NCCR with embarrassment. "The whole thing was not my idea," he says, "but let's face it, we decided to use the Fairness Doctrine to harass the extreme right. In the light of Watergate, it was wrong. We felt the ends justified the means. They never do." ...

In retrospect, [Martin E.] Firestone, now a prominent Washington communications lawyer representing station owners -- a number of whom would want him to help repeal the Fairness Doctrine -- admits, "Perhaps in the light of Watergate, our tactics were too aggressive, but we were up against ultra-right preachers who were saying vicious things about Kennedy and Johnson." ...

Whatever lessons hindsight has taught, this campaign in 1964 against right-wing broadcasts was at the time considered a success by its creators. In a summary written during the closing days of the presidential election, Firestone pointed with pride to 1,035 letters to stations that produced a total of 1,678 hours of free time from stations carrying McIntire, Dean Manion and Smoot. Both he and [Wayne] Phillips felt a genuine sense of accomplishment.

In a report to the Democratic National Committee, Phillips wrote: "Even more important than the free radio time was the effectiveness of this operation in inhibiting the political activity of these right-wing broadcasts ..." In a confidential report to Phillips and the DNC, Firestone stressed the nature of the campaign that "may have inhibited the stations in their broadcast of more radical and politically partisan programs." ... "... Were our efforts to be continued on a year-round basis, we would find that many of these stations would consider the broadcasts of these programs bothersome and burdensome (especially if they are ultimately required to give us free time) and would start dropping the programs from their broadcast schedule."

So it sounds like the Fairness Doctrine didn't just have the potential for deterring controversial speech -- its users, including its most sophisticated, well-organized, and politically well-connected users, saw the potential and deliberately used the Doctrine for this very purpose. Seems pretty likely that the same thing will happen if the Doctrine were resurrected, though the Internet should make it easy to mobilize many more than 1000 letters of complaint.

David Sucher (mail) (www):
Interesting but it would be useful to know exactly what was done and why, in your view, it was so bad.

Forcing extremist media which is using a public resource (i.e. the airwaves) to offer opposing viewpoints -- that's the Fairness Doctrine, right? -- may not make sense now but the 1950-60-70s context should be considered. (And maybe he Fairness Doctrine still makes sense; your raising the issue is useful; thanks.)

Furthermore, this sentence -- "Fairness Doctrine didn't just have the potential for deterring controversial speech..." is loaded and makes the radical right appear as if it were a beaten-down minority. "Deterring controversial speech" indeed. That's a funny spin. Democrats were in a defensive mode and it was not the "controversial" aspect which was at issue but viciousness and lying by right-wing extremists.
10.12.2007 7:14am
TruePath (mail) (www):
The fairness doctrine doesn't even make sense and it is inherently biased and unfair.

To enforce anything like the fairness doctrine one must identify a moderate position around which you balance the competing sides. For instance if the issue is "how long should the US stay in Iraq" then maybe we deem that every person who says "longer than 2 years" has to be balanced by someone saying "less than 2 years." But from the point of view of someone who thinks we should stay there indefinitely this amounts to a pure giveaway of media time to his opponents. Worse since his position is more extreme than most people's it means even those who would otherwise be supporting him (five year people) will fight tooth and nail to keep him off the air because he 'uses up' their airtime with his less attractive views.

I mean these things with Kennedy and Johnson make the unfairness issue really salient but I don't think that is any worse than when the rule is working as intended. Even in normal operation this rule is likely to totally exclude some positions from public discourse and that is much more harmful in the long run.

--

Yes, you can try to restrict it to mere political endorsement not mention of ideas but this won't work. Suppose Edwards is running on an anti-free trade platform against Republican Joe. Either the rule is useless because you can spend an hour praising free trade and listing the great harms restricting it will cause or you run into the problem I mentioned above. If your belief is that we need to totally open our borders unilaterally (while Joe just believes in WTO) you will be effectively excluded from airtime.

Of course this leaves aside what this blog has noted before about how easy it is to engage in much more subtle manipulations, e.g., putting on really bad arguments for the other guy's candidate and balance it with good ones from your guy.
10.12.2007 8:21am
Dick Eagleson:
...makes the radical right appear as if it were a beaten-down minority. "Deterring controversial speech" indeed. That's a funny spin. Democrats were in a defensive mode and it was not the "controversial" aspect which was at issue but viciousness and lying by right-wing extremists.

Even making the charitable assumption that you are much younger than I and lack the advantage of having actually been alive at the time in question, the preceding snippet is breathtaking in its tendentious mendacity. In 1964 muscular liberalism was everywhere ascendant. The right wing, extreme or otherwise, was very much a beaten-down and reviled minority. This was the year of the infamous "Picking Daisies" anti-Goldwater TV ad. Check the election results of Johnson-vs-Goldwater. "Defensive." Right.

Far from being in a defensive mode, Democrats were howling and capering like Visigoths in the ruins of Rome. Fresh from their victorious creation of the Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare, they were busily unionizing and federalizing public education, running up high-rise low-income housing projects in inner cities and universalizing open-ended welfare entitlements. All of these are now largely seen, in retrospect - except by unreconstructed liberals, of course - as major public policy disasters with whose pervasive malign affects the nation is still substantially afflicted over four decades hence. Then, too, there was the uniquely awful blend of arrogance and timidity with which the Democrats launched and prosecuted the Vietnam War.

While "viciousness and lying" were not unknown on the right in 1964, the vast majority of it was, as it continues to be, on the left. The effectiveness and consequentiality of said lying was even more lopsidedly sinistral.
10.12.2007 8:58am
Nessuno:
David Sucher said:

Interesting but it would be useful to know exactly what was done and why, in your view, it was so bad.


I think one of the frustating things about having a dialog on the internet is how frequently one must constantly re-argue first principles before engaging in the actual issue at hand.

It boggles my mind that David Sucher is asking to be convinced that using the force of law to silence political opponents is "so bad."

I fully understand that engaging in that conversation on occasion is a good thing, but it's just so frustrating how it gets in the way of advancing debate and understanding of further issues.
10.12.2007 9:00am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Using the force of law to silence opponents is only bad if it gets turned around on you. Right, libs?

Problem is, the law is like a machine. Doesn't care who has the levers.

But, if you have to explain to somebody why using the law to silence political opponents is a bad thing....that's a bad thing. Scary. I think we should use the force of law to silence anybody who is morally corrupt enough to ask the question. Only fair.
10.12.2007 9:33am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Nessuno... he's just adopting the same type of tactic described in the post. Hinder, harass, delay, obfuscate. ANYTHING to avoid having to actually defend a position in the public arena and try to persuade the public to agree with him.
10.12.2007 9:34am
TruePath (mail) (www):
In Sucher's defense it is far from obvious that this sort of restriction is harmful. I outlined one way I think it is harmful above (almost totally eliminates currently unsupported ideas from the marketplace). However, the fact that the government should be hands off political discourse is far from clear.

For instance many europeans would argue (plausibly but I think incorrectly) that the official government silencing of parties with racist or hateful messages produces a better government and a better society. I think it just encourages these views by making them more dangerous and attractive but the ultimate effects of these regulations is an empirical question so it isn't a dumb question to wonder why people think it is bad.

Actually I think this is a perfect example of MY problem with the rule. If one is very very liberal one probably feels that the fairness rule was being CORRECTLY applied during this era. After all your liberal views were fairly balanced by more conservative views it's just that the people on this board would call those conservative views liberal.

Additionally his comment made me realize that ultimately this guy may have a political motive in making this admission. He may want to convince conservatives to oppose the fairness doctrine.
10.12.2007 10:20am
Mitchell Freedman (mail):
I agree with Mr. Sucher. And I am 50 years old, and had a Dad who lived that era as a schoolteacher teaching civics--and was an early press critic. That's my cred to say the following:

The language from the Fred Friendly book sounds like an attack, but the context shows us something else. These stations were promoting one sided propaganda from the Right, and vicious racism I might add, and the Fairness Doctrine was used to provide some balance to what people were seeing or hearing.

I know for a fact that newspapers in the Mid-West and South, during the 1950s, were even worse: They refused to say Adlai Stevenson's name. They would say "the president's opponent" or something like that. At least then there was more competition among newspapers, but television and radio had limited bandwidth, hence, the Fairness Doctrine.

Let's not allow a theoretical position to overwhelm factual context. What are you guys, French philosophers?
10.12.2007 10:59am
Houston Lawyer:
That "seems pretty likely" qualifier you added to your post seems pretty soft. There is no doubt in my mind that those proposing to resurrect the fairness doctrine want to do so solely to harrass right of center broadcasters. They pine for the days of the ABC, CBS and NBC monopoly of the airwaves.

If you can't win the war of ideas fairly, you should just make what your opponents say illegal.
10.12.2007 11:02am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Well, I'm 60, grew up in a strongly union and liberal household, and think Sucher's ideas are dangerous beyond belief.

Government simply has no business whatsoever in trying to determine which political philosophies (beyond calls to armed revolution) are 'worthy' of sharing the public airwaves.

As others have noted above, it looks perfectly fine as long as your side of the argument is on the 'winning' side. A failure of imagination (or an insufficient sense of history) assumes that one's own side will always be on top.
10.12.2007 11:05am
JB:
The Fairness Doctrine, even if it was once worthwhile, even if it still is justifiable, is a far greater incumbent protection than any campaign finance law.

As TruePath said, the question of "what is an opposing viewpoint?" is troubling, as is that of "which opposing viewpoint do we showcase?"

We've seen how the libertarian wing of the Republicans has been treated since 1999. What makes anyone here think that the right-wing balancers would articulate our positions, and our justifications for their policy recommendations, instead of the big-government Conservative ones? Even if we agree with the ends, we'll have no control over the means, and no way to get control--it'll be "fair," right? The same goes for any other 3rd-place or lower minority viewpoint.
10.12.2007 11:20am
sbron:
Senator Feinstein is one of the major forces behind a
revival of the Fairness Doctrine. It should be emphasized
that the massive public/talk radio reaction against the
Senate amnesty was the impetus for attempting to
revive the doctrine. Here are her
comments on Fox News


"FEINSTEIN: Well, in my view, talk radio tends to be one-sided. It also tends to be dwelling in hyperbole. It's explosive. It pushes people to, I think, extreme views without a lot of information.

This is a very complicated bill. It's seven titles. Most people don't know what's in this bill. Therefore, to just have one or two things dramatized and taken out of context, such as the word amnesty — we have a silent amnesty right now, but nobody goes into that. Nobody goes into the flaws of our broken system.

This bill fixes those flaws. Do I think there should be an opportunity on talk radio to present that point of view? Yes, I do, particularly about the critical issues of the day.

WALLACE: So would you revive the fairness doctrine?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm looking at it, as a matter of fact, Chris, because I think there ought to be an opportunity to present the other side. And unfortunately, talk radio is overwhelmingly one way.


The purpose of the new Fairness Doctrine would not be
to squelch hate speech, but to stop legitimate public
discussion of the intersection of issues such as
race, immigration and government preferences.
Talk radio has been the only media avenue for Americans
angered by the negative effects of mass immigration
to express themselves. It would be fundamentally
undemocratic, and contrary to the 1st amendment
to impose such restriction on legitimate discussion
of controversial issues.
10.12.2007 11:31am
therut:
No surprise here. They do the same with their gun control laws. It is called SOCIAL ENGINEERING. It is the Orwellian lie. Newspeak and all that means. The left is oppressive.
10.12.2007 11:55am
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Interesting comments and I am obviously not communicating well.

First of all I was asking Eugene Volokh some questions; they were sincere questions because I thought his post was incomplete; laugh if you like because you already knew the answers.

Second, in my comment I held out the likelihood that the Fairness Doctrine may not be wise today with the relative decline of public air media. So get off your high horses, please, as if you are being attacked and as if my questions are "dangerous." Really. Don't turn someone half-agreeing with you into an opponent by mis-reading and exaggeration.

Third, the idea that the Fairness Doctrine actually deterred "controversial" speech is simply not historically accurate. The speech which might have been deterred (and the impact of the Fairness Doctrine is an historical matter which few here can remember with reliable accuracy) was in many cases majoritarian or at least completely non-controversial speech within the communities where it was seen or heard. <i>The Fairness Doctrine was used to attempt to gain a voice and not squelch one.</i><b></b> The passage quote by Volokh is hardly conclusive as to widespread and conscious Democratic use of it to prevent the free exchange of right-wing ideas on the airwaves. In fact it makes no such claim at all but just the opposite -- that the Fairness Doctrine got <i>more</i> views on the air.

That said, and repeating myself, <i>the Fairness Doctrine may indeed not be applicable to our times.</i> But then again it may and I thank the tone of the remarks -- "Shocked! Just Shocked!" -- for helping me to keep an open mind.

Btw, I probably remember the fifties-sixties as well as or better than anyone here and the idea that the Right Wing didn't have plenty of opportunity to offer its opinions is absurd. The paucity of critical thinking from Left and of course more from the Right had nothing to do with the Fairness Doctrine which at most simply brought another corporate albeit Democratic voice to the table. So while the Fairness Doctrine might have failed to promote challenging, intelligent discussion it did not stop right-wingers from talking and offering us their "controversial" ideas such as that blacks should separate schools etc etc. And obviously, if you look at American history, it didn't hurt them at the polls. Call the Fairness Doctrine inappropriate, unwise and impossible to administer; but please don't try to suggest that it "deterred controversial speech" unless you have some hard facts or at least real examples.
10.12.2007 12:12pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
If I recall the doctrine (I researched it toward its very end) the key was that it exempted "news" broadcasts. So long as the views being promoted were promoted via slanted news, the MSM could do it all they wanted. It only applied when a speaker, well, spoke his own opinions and criticized someone or something.
10.12.2007 12:22pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Btw, one of the issues with use of the airwaves is that they are hard to visualize as a limited natural resource. So try this mental exercise. It's not perfect but starts to get at the issue of allocation of a public and limited resource.

Imagine an isolated town in which there were only 2-3 physical spaces to give a speech or hold a meeting. The government gives only one person a right to offer shows in that space, rent it out. In such a case would anyone seriously have a problem with some sort of Fairness Doctrine?

Yes, of course it's not a perfect analogy because it starts with an authoritarian government restriction. But the idea is that there is a limited natural resource and practically-speaking someone must control it on a day-to-day basis to make it socially-beneficial so you end up with a natural monopoly. What result? I'd say government intervention and something like a Fairness Doctrine.
10.12.2007 12:30pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Even making the charitable assumption that you are much younger than I and lack the advantage of having actually been alive at the time in question, the preceding snippet is breathtaking in its tendentious mendacity.

I don't know what bizarro world of the mid-sixties you grew up in, but I think you should really check the results of the 1968 presidential elections or the popularity of George Wallace in the sixties if you really believe that "Democrats were howling and capering like Visigoths in the ruins of Rome." I realize that for people like you the civil rights and voting rights acts were probably an unmitigated disaster, but that is progress. As for the horrible social programs that arose in the sixties that only an unreconstructed liberal can believe worked, all I can say is compare poverty statistics in this country in 1955 and 1975.
10.12.2007 12:31pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
Whether or not I can imagine a circumstance where the Fairness Doctrine might be a good idea is irrelevant unless we're actually in such a circumstance.

Broadcast radio is not a very scarce resource. Neither is cable. Neither is "the internet".

Yes, Limbaugh is a scarce resource, but so is the NYT.
10.12.2007 1:17pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Btw, I probably remember the fifties-sixties as well as or better than anyone here and the idea that the Right Wing didn't have plenty of opportunity to offer its opinions is absurd."

What avenues were open to the "Right Wing," or any other dissenting voice in the 1950s or 1960s? They could stand on a soapbox. They could try to get their books published, but conservatives had limited choices because most major book publishers tilt towards the liberal viewpoint. The only major conservative book publisher that comes to mind is Regnery. While there were some conservative magazines, they had limited exposure outside the big cities. Most stores throughout the country buy a pre-selected package of magazines for their shelves. You might find Guns and Ammo , but certainly not National Review at a Safeway in Bakersfield CA. There was no talk radio except for a few shows like Bob and Ray, or late-night personalities like Jean Shepard, but they mostly stayed away from the political. The major broadcast networks would only give token exposure to conservative voices, and then only conservatives like George Will, who accept the basic tenants of multi-culturalism.

While the Right Wing certainly had some opportunity to offer its opinion, I would say those opportunities were certainly not plentiful as compared to today. The left really feels threatened by new opportunities provided by the Internet and talk radio. Especially talk radio. That's why Feinstein and other Democrats are trying to destroy it.
10.12.2007 2:04pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Sucher said:


Third, the idea that the Fairness Doctrine actually deterred "controversial" speech is simply not historically accurate. The speech which might have been deterred (and the impact of the Fairness Doctrine is an historical matter which few here can remember with reliable accuracy) was in many cases majoritarian or at least completely non-controversial speech within the communities where it was seen or heard.


Maybe you mean the speech that the above campaign was directed against? I didn't mean to imply that this situation was an example of non-mainstream speech being discouraged. Of course the sort of speech that is directly attacked by one party or the other under the fairness doctrine will be largely mainstream enough for them to want to bother with it. The point about the loss of minority views is a theoretical one mostly unrelated to the post.

The issue is this: does the fairness doctrine require fairly extreme views on an issue to be balanced by speech from the other side of the aisle? If no then the fairness doctrine actually pushes all the commentary out to the extremes where they won't trigger a fairness clause (and this wouldn't be how it would ever be implmented). So we must assume the opposite, namely that if I get up on the TV as a full advocate of unilaterally dropping tariffs and that we should have open borders then someone who believes in restricting trade barriers and immigration gets time for balance. Now I know that my views are a lot less likely to persuade people than more moderate views that just say, "Yah free trade isn't always good but trade pact X is a great economic opportunity and we need to create a guest worker program," as do other members on my 'side' so since we aren't dumb we don't have me get up on the TV since that always gives the other side the chance to more effectively counter it.

In other words a fairness rule turns radio and TV into zero sum games on each political issue. While if I come up with an interesting (but fairly controversial) argument/philosophy the NYT might do a piece about it just because it's interesting but under a fairness rule the radio/TV can't do so without also having to give the other guys a say. This incentives the parties to better maintain discipline and discourage anyone but the mainstream representatives from talking to the media and 'wasting' their time.


Btw, I probably remember the fifties-sixties as well as or better than anyone here and the idea that the Right Wing didn't have plenty of opportunity to offer its opinions is absurd.


I was very unclear in my comment when I suggested that IF you were really liberal you would have found it a valid application back at that time. I have no idea what the application back in that time was like (and I tend to be skeptical of single articles like this on partisan subjects) what I meant to say is that given almost any application people with the right views will see it as presenting a nice balance.



Imagine an isolated town in which there were only 2-3 physical spaces to give a speech or hold a meeting. The government gives only one person a right to offer shows in that space, rent it out. In such a case would anyone seriously have a problem with some sort of Fairness Doctrine?


YES. More or less for the reasons above. There is no meaningful notion of balance. To set what view counts as balanced is exactly to set the frame of a discussion. I mean do they give the same time to intelligent design as to evolution lectures? What about flat earthers or homeopaths and scientists? It doesn't even make sense to have an equal time doctrine between ALL views, someone has to set the discussion frame and I tend to think that debate and decision is often more important than the actual debate itself (psych studies show that people have an irrational tendency to compromise between the two anchors given).

A better approach is simply to offer the thing up on a first come first serve approach or other content neutral manner. Besides I just think the analogy is wrong radio waves are not the only form of mass media. Realistically TV is just one info source and newspapers, internet etc.. etc.. are all competitors.
10.12.2007 2:15pm
Crunchy Frog:

Of course this leaves aside what this blog has noted before about how easy it is to engage in much more subtle manipulations, e.g., putting on really bad arguments for the other guy's candidate and balance it with good ones from your guy.


Back when Prop 209 (elimination of race-based preferences in government hiring, contracting, and education) was on the ballot in California, Cal State-Northridge decided it would be a good idea to hold an "Affirmative Action Debate". The pro-AA speaker was to be a very well-respected civil rights attorney-activist (Joe Hicks IIRC). His opponent? David Duke.
10.12.2007 2:34pm
Anon Y. Mous:

"[...] but let's face it, we decided to use the Fairness Doctrine to harass the extreme right. In the light of Watergate, it was wrong."
And
"Perhaps in the light of Watergate, our tactics were too aggressive, but we were up against ultra-right preachers who were saying vicious things about Kennedy and Johnson."


Two quotes, both citing "the light of Watergate". What did Watergate have to do with the Fairness Doctrine?
10.12.2007 2:46pm
Seamus (mail):
Far from being in a defensive mode, Democrats were howling and capering like Visigoths in the ruins of Rome. Fresh from their victorious creation of the Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare, . . .

Huh? The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare wasn't created by "Democrats," it was created by President Eisenhower, in Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953. (Afterwards, the Reorganization Act was amended to deny presidents the power to use it to create cabinet departments. See 5 U.S.C. sec. 905(a)(1).)
10.12.2007 3:24pm
Fub:
Andy Freeman wrote at 10.12.2007 12:17pm:
Broadcast radio is not a very scarce resource.
I must respectfully disagree.

Test the hypothesis by either actual or gedanken demonstration:

Find an FM broadcast channel into which under present licensing regs you can shoehorn a new Class B license allocation in any major metro area in the USA.

Alternatively, find a geographically similar existing license that can be purchased for less than many tens of megabucks.

Neither is theoretically impossible, but occurrences are very rare, and their prices are dear.

I am not arguing in favor of the Fairness Doctrine. I abhor it. I am just arguing for accuracy in facts cited in support or opposition.
10.12.2007 3:38pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
"What avenues were open to the "Right Wing," or any other dissenting voice in the 1950s or 1960s?"

Ah, a question from Rush Limbaugh school of historical revisionism. :)

Since conservatives and right-wingers of various stripes controlled local TV and radio (pretty-much all media in fact including national media) I'd say quite a few avenues. To show you how far we have come, The NYT was solidly center-right throughout the fifties and backed Eisenhower and many many other Republicans.

If by "any other dissenting voices" you mean serious left-wingers I'd have to agree that they had little access to national or broadcast media, whether local or national.

And please remember folks, that in the fifties and sixties "liberal" meant being in favor of integrated schools, fluoridation, the right to unionize National Parks and negotiating with the Russians. Wild stuff, eh?

Reasonably sensible and intellectual right-wingers such as some of the members of the Volokh Conspiracy -- people with whom one might disagree but whose arguments are not based on "loss of precious bodily fluids" -- simply did not exist in the fifties and very few in the sixties or seventies as well. Go back and read National Review from the fifties if you doubt me; it's bizarre stuff. And NR was calm enough not to drool; many others did.
10.12.2007 4:04pm
Bottomfish (mail):
There are now more media outlets than ever there were in the 50's and 60's - now there is widespread cable and of course the internet. "The airwaves" aren't nearly what they were then, so the "scarce resource" argument is no longer valid.
10.12.2007 4:27pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Find an FM broadcast channel into which under present licensing regs you can shoehorn a new Class B license allocation in any major metro area in the USA.

Spread spectrum was invented in the 1940s. Most of the traditional spectrum was grabbed by the Feds in the 20s for their use. If all the usable spectrum had been open to homesteading in the '20s, there would be plenty of space available. In any case, the economic restrictions (as with newspapers) are more significant than the technical restrictions.

Since conservatives and right-wingers of various stripes controlled local TV and radio (pretty-much all media in fact including national media)

I'm sure that Leonard Goldenson, William S. Paley, and David Sarnoff would be surpried to find themselves right wingers. Likewise Arthur Hays Sulzberger and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. There was no organized conservative movement in the US in 1950. All the growth has been since then. BTW George Corley Wallace was a populist not a member of the New Right.

The Christian broadcasters suppressed by the Kennedy Administration were small and poor. Not particularly significant compared to the Admin.
10.12.2007 4:39pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
>> Broadcast radio is not a very scarce resource.
>I must respectfully disagree.

Yes, buying one of the dozens of AM or FM slots in a major market is expensive, but that's not the same as very scarce. (I could point out that there's no law of physics or economics that says that we can only have broadcast radio in the AM/FM bands.)

Note that widely distributing a newspaper is also very expensive. And no major market has nearly as many widely distributed newspapers as it has radio stations. If expensive implies scarce implies "can be subjected to content restrictions", the major newspapers qualify long before AM/FM radio.
10.12.2007 4:49pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Two quotes, both citing "the light of Watergate". What did Watergate have to do with the Fairness Doctrine?
Watergate showed a generation of Americans how the government was being used for partisan political purposes, with enemies lists, burglary squads, slush funds, the kind of things that LBJ and the Kennedys excelled at. In retrospect, today we have a better understanding of the Watergate impeachment proceedings as themselves partisan and political, with players including Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, and the FBI. It's worth remembering that LBJ's personal fortune came as a result of his using connections in the FCC to take over a texas radio station dirt cheap, which then became a chain of TV and radio stations, though which he laundered millions in payoffs. See Caro, Robert.
LBJ and JFK had secrets they didn't want aired in the media,and used the Fairness Doctrine, the IRS, etc. to silence truth.
10.12.2007 5:04pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Has anyone noticed the airwaves are available to anyone who wants to broadcast a program? That's what Air America proved. They did it.

Right wingers support Rush Limbaugh by listening to him. That's all they have to do to keep their views on the air. Just tune in. It doesn't cost them a dime.

Apparently the left wingers couldn't be bothered. They didn't listen to Air America. They didn't even bother to tune in.
10.12.2007 5:09pm
Smokey:
Mitchell Freedman:
I know for a fact that newspapers in the Mid-West and South, during the 1950s, were even worse: They refused to say Adlai Stevenson's name. They would say "the president's opponent" or something like that... hence, the Fairness Doctrine.
And I 'know for a fact' that in 2007, major newspapers routinely bury a corrupt politician's Party affiliation far down into the article [and many times it's not even reported], when there's a "D" after the wrongdoer's name. But if there's an R after his name, you can usually find it in the headline, and then in the opening paragraph.

The real problem with the 'Fairness' Doctrine is that it is diametrically opposed to the 1st Amendment. Freedom of Speech = freedom to speak; Freedom of Speech =/= the 'Fairness' Doctrine that Dianne Feinstein wants to impose - in order to silence uncomfortable criticism.
10.12.2007 5:17pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Alternatively, find a geographically similar existing license that can be purchased for less than many tens of megabucks."

Here's another test. Tune in to Rush Limbaugh some afternoon. Then spin the dial and count the number of other stations which are also boadcasting in that market. This shows the number of competing time slots that are available.

Then tell the owners of those competing stations that you have a syndicated liberal show that will compete with Limbaugh and make lots of money for the station owner. Count the ones who throw you out of their office because they prefer to keep boadcasting their hit Mellow Clasic Country Rock Countdown. The band width is available.
10.12.2007 5:56pm
Fub:
Andy Freeman wrote at 10.12.2007 3:49pm:
Yes, buying one of the dozens of AM or FM slots in a major market is expensive, but that's not the same as very scarce. (I could point out that there's no law of physics or economics that says that we can only have broadcast radio in the AM/FM bands.)
I am not suggesting that the laws of physics dictate otherwise. I am saying that under current regs the broadcast spectrum is scarce, at least in major metro markets.

Yes, the Fairness Doctrine was instituted under the laws and regs that caused spectrum to be scarce. The spectrum allocation regs did make some sense given the technology available at the time they were made. Those regs do still apply today, therefore the spectrum is scarce. I certainly agree that some ideas of changing spectrum allocation regs would yield more spectrum availability, but that is not the issue I was addressing.

Also, to be technically accurate, if FM modulation at current standard broadcast specs as to bandwidth is to be used in the currently allocated FM broadcast band, then the current channel, power and geographical allocations do make some sense, but may not be optimal for today's technology even for the same basic modulation regime. For example, today, one could make a plausible argument that better adjacent channel rejection in newer FM receiver designs, would allow narrower guard bands.

Ideas such as reallocating broadcast spectrum for newer modulation methods (eg: spread spectrum) are another discussion altogether.
10.12.2007 6:38pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Does anyone think the a vaiation of the fairness concept should be applied to cable TV? Why?
10.12.2007 6:45pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Does anyone think the a vaiation of the fairness concept should be applied to cable TV? Why?
How about applying the Fairness Doctrine to college classes? Require that every time a leftist professor expresses a political opinion (or one that someone thinks is a political opinion), equal time is provided for conservative or libertarian professors in that specialty to express a political opinion in the middle of the lecture.

Now, I see some problems with this. For one thing, all the conservative and libertarian professors in the United States will die of exhaustion in the second or third week of the new law, having to run from classroom to classroom, since they are outnumbered by the leftists by such a huge margin.
10.12.2007 7:29pm
buzz (mail):
"I realize that for people like you the civil rights and voting rights acts were probably an unmitigated disaster, but that is progress."

Wow. Straight to the racist card huh. Can't argue your point without it?
10.12.2007 8:28pm
ThomasD (mail):
The fundamental problem of any fairness doctrine is that it posits the existence of some body with the Solomonic ability to determine what is fair.

A single arbiter of fairness would be in direct opposition to any notion of a marketplace of ideas, where determinations of value are to be made by all participants.

It's effectively price controls on ideas.
10.12.2007 8:50pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
IMO one of the biggest reasons for the dominance of conservative radio talk shows is that commercial sponsors and radio stations prefer talk show hosts who tend to favor big business on the issues of business taxes, antitrust laws, environmental protection, labor laws, consumer protection, the fairness doctrine (yes!), etc..

IMO a full fairness doctrine, such as requiring equal broadcast time for "conservative" and "liberal" talk shows, is a bad idea because (1) it would be a great burden on radio &TV stations because of limited broadcast time and (2) it is often impossible to determine what is "liberal" and what is "conservative."

I am in favor of a limited fairness doctrine: I think (1) that the "personal attack" and "political editorial" rules should be restored (requiring that individuals and organizations be given free time to respond to specific attacks against them) and (2) that pre-screening of call-ins to talk shows should be prohibited or restricted.

For the following reasons, what we really need is a blogging "fairness doctrine" prohibiting arbitrary censorship of visitors' comments on blogs:

(1) Comment space on blogs is virtually unlimited, hence such a fairness doctrine would be no burden on bloggers

(2) The bigger blogs (including this one) have become major de facto public forums.

(3) Blogs are being authoritatively cited by court opinions, scholarly journal articles, the official news media, etc., making fairness and accuracy of particular importance.
10.12.2007 8:59pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"IMO one of the biggest reasons for the dominance of conservative radio talk shows is that commercial sponsors and radio stations prefer talk show hosts who tend to favor big business on the issues of business taxes, antitrust laws, environmental protection, labor laws, consumer protection, the fairness doctrine (yes!), etc.."

I'd suggest radio stations prefer shows that allow them to sell their advertising time for more money. Commercial sponsors prefer shows that offer a given demographic at an advertising rate they find reasonable. I doubt either really cares about the political content.

If Al Franken could attract the same audience as Rush Limbaugh, I am sure Franken would be heard opposite Limbaugh in every major market. That would offer a station owner a high ad rate, and the advertiser a valuable demographic. Does anyone think Ford avoids selling cars to liberals?
10.12.2007 9:21pm
Mary (mail):

I am not suggesting that the laws of physics dictate otherwise. I am saying that under current regs the broadcast spectrum is scarce, at least in major metro markets.


Then why is blue blazes is the Fairness Doctrine the solution? Obviously the current regs should be blown to smithereens if that will prevent the resource from being scare.
10.12.2007 9:53pm
Roscoe (mail):
The premise behind the fairness doctrine, that radio airwaves are a scarce resource, just ain't so (except in the sense that all resources are scarce, and get more expensive as demand goes up). Anyone who wants a radio station, complete with an assigned frequency, can just go buy one. Do thirty seconds of research on the Internet and you can find lots of radio stations for sale. So just raise some dough, buy yourself a station, and you can fill those "scarce" airwaves with liberal talk, 24/7.

Except that you can't. As the Air America experiment showed, for whatever reason liberals don't listen to talk radio enough to make it profitable.

Stripped of its bogus rationale, the fairness doctrine is nothing but an attempt to silence voices with whom certain people disagree
10.12.2007 10:02pm
Buckland (mail):
One issue with the Fairness doctrine in practice is there are rarely 2 sides to an issue. Most sides have lots of different facets, many more than 2.

For instance, what are the sides on the issue of healthcare? I could come up with list of 10 "sides" in the overall debate without a lot of trouble. And there are groups that are firmly behind each of these positons. How much airtime must be donated to groups behind each of these positions?

These are the types of considerations that driver programmers to feature the discussions of long term sewer district plans or other uninteresting tripe.

These are the typ
10.12.2007 10:19pm
Dick Eagleson:
J.F. Thomas says:

I don't know what bizarro world of the mid-sixties you grew up in, but I think you should really check the results of the 1968 presidential elections or the popularity of George Wallace in the sixties if you really believe that "Democrats were howling and capering like Visigoths in the ruins of Rome."

The original discussion was about the early-to-mid-60's, not the late-60's. Only a few years chronologically, but a huge distance in terms of social ferment. The chickens of the take-no-prisoners New Frontier and Great Society social engineering programs had begun to come home to roost in a big way by 1968.

I realize that for people like you the civil rights and voting rights acts were probably an unmitigated disaster, but that is progress.

When you can't argue the point, yell racism, eh? How quaint.

Seriously, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts were not unmitigated disasters, they were modestly mitigated goods. Ending de jure racial discrimination was a huge positive step. The fact that certain property rights were compromised to do so was, on balance, quite worthwhile. These acts, especially the Public Accommodations part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, did open up opportunities for a certain amount of racial ambulance chasing by unscrupulous tort lawyers, but unscrupulous tort lawyers, like the poor, we always have with us. From a public policy standpoint the trade nets out as a big positive. If I differ from liberals on the impact of these acts it is mainly that I acknowledge that there were some less-desirable side effects.

Also a key point, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts had essentially nothing to do with taxes and transfer payments - the core of most other so-called "social programs" of the era.

As for the horrible social programs that arose in the sixties that only an unreconstructed liberal can believe worked, all I can say is compare poverty statistics in this country in 1955 and 1975.

You can demonstrate, statistically, that the poor were better off over any arbitrarily selected 20-year interval in American history except perhaps the ten or so terminating in the years 1930 - 1940, and I'm not absolutely sure about even those - I haven't ginned up the numbers. I believe you will find that the condition of the poor improved much faster between, say 1935 and 1955 - before the New Frontier/Great Society "social programs" existed - than it did from 1955 to 1975. The vast expansion of so-called "social programs" under the Johnson and Nixon administrations had the perverse effect of notably slowing the previously faster upward progress of the poor.

Seamus said:

Huh? The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare wasn't created by "Democrats," it was created by President Eisenhower, in Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953. (Afterwards, the Reorganization Act was amended to deny presidents the power to use it to create cabinet departments. See 5 U.S.C. sec. 905(a)(1).)

I stand corrected on the creation date. But HEW was certainly a key nexus of "social program" expansion and spending growth in the 60's. Vastly more so than during the preceding decade.
10.12.2007 10:44pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Suppose the argument was about some controversial science subject.

And there is some "extreme" view on the subject.

As Einstein said about scientific consensus. "It only takes one."
10.12.2007 10:57pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Fub,

Micro-power FM stations say you are wrong.

100 mW can cover a small neighborhood and are TOTALLY legal.
10.12.2007 11:06pm
ArtD0dger (mail):
Anybody who wants to polarize the media like we have polarized politics must take some perverse satisfaction in the state of the latter.
10.12.2007 11:32pm
Alan Rabinowitz (mail):
David Sucher:

The devil was in the process. The letters set the stage not just for equal time, but for challenges to broadcast licenses. Guess which political persuation ran the agency that ruled on the license renewals? Guess how seriously letters from conservatives challenging things were taken?

I think you are too young to have watched any of this and I hope you don't have to see it happen in the future
10.12.2007 11:41pm
MarkJ (mail):
"Fairness Doctrine?" It ain't goin' nowhere. Here's one reason why:

One would do well to remember that Rush Limbaugh alone has a weekly audience of 20 million listeners. Any attempt to silence Limbaugh, Hannity, Hewitt, Ingraham, Levin, et. al. would most certainly be countered with a march on Washington that could easily dwarf anything seen there in living memory.

Do the numbers: if even a relatively small percentage of conservative (and undoubtedly even some liberal-leaning) radio listeners took part in such an event, you're looking at millions of people flooding into Our Nation's Capital.

And, I daresay, such a gathering would be refreshingly free of the usual puppets, conga drums, wacky hats, profane placards, intermittent violence, and mounds of trash so typical of the charming left-wing demonstrations we've come to know and love.

I'm betting a case of Leinenkugel's Red Lager the Democrats would crumble like six-week old bleu cheese under such pressure. Indeed, it wouldn't be anywhere near a fair fight: the Democrats would be matched up against professional communicators, with decades of experience, who are very, very good at what they do for their livings.

Anybody want to make a friendly wager that I'd be right?
10.12.2007 11:57pm
Fub:
Mary wrote at 10.12.2007 8:53pm:
Then why is blue blazes is the Fairness Doctrine the solution? Obviously the current regs should be blown to smithereens if that will prevent the resource from being scare.
I never endorsed the Fairness Doctrine. On the contrary, I already said I abhor it. I only addressed the question of whether spectrum for class B licenses, under current allocation regs, is a scarce resource.

M. Simon wrote at 10.12.2007 10:06pm:
Micro-power FM stations say you are wrong.

100 mW can cover a small neighborhood and are TOTALLY legal.
I was addressing spectrum available for class B licenses, the usual license for covering large metro areas with a detectable signal.
10.13.2007 12:44am
J Rez (mail):
Just one problem with that, MarkJ - most right-wingers have jobs and can't pick up and march around Washington in the middle of a weekday like the lefties do.
10.13.2007 12:51am
MikeMangum:
"IMO one of the biggest reasons for the dominance of conservative radio talk shows is that commercial sponsors and radio stations prefer talk show hosts who tend to favor big business on the issues of business taxes, antitrust laws, environmental protection, labor laws, consumer protection, the fairness doctrine (yes!), etc.. "

IMO one of the biggest reasons for the dominance of conservative radio talk shows is that advertisers prefer talk show hosts who tend to have an audience"

There...fixed that for you.
10.13.2007 1:24am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Two quotes, both citing "the light of Watergate". What did Watergate have to do with the Fairness Doctrine?
What some people above in the thread don't seem to understand -- but which you'd think they would, if they read the quotes in EV's post -- is that the "Fairness Doctrine" was not some sort of self-executing policy. Rather, the government -- the FCC -- had to decide to take action against a broadcaster under the Fairness Doctrine. It had to decide whether a certain broadcaster had violated the FD and then (effectively) fine the broadcaster by requiring it to give away valuable air time.

Watergate showed that conservatives could someday take power and use nominally-neutral government institutions as a partisan weapon. (Well, it showed liberals that; libertarian types always understood that.) It was a revelation to many liberals -- still is, on a regular basis, for that matter -- that the people wielding the instrumentalities of government power might not always share their own views.
10.13.2007 1:43am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Elliot123 said (10.12.2007 8:21pm) ,
"IMO one of the biggest reasons for the dominance of conservative radio talk shows is that commercial sponsors and radio stations prefer talk show hosts who tend to favor big business on the issues of business taxes, antitrust laws, environmental protection, labor laws, consumer protection, the fairness doctrine (yes!), etc.."
I'd suggest radio stations prefer shows that allow them to sell their advertising time for more money. Commercial sponsors prefer shows that offer a given demographic at an advertising rate they find reasonable. I doubt either really cares about the political content.

Big business could do itself more harm than good by sponsoring and broadcasting anti-business talk shows.

If Al Franken could attract the same audience as Rush Limbaugh, I am sure Franken would be heard opposite Limbaugh in every major market.

That does not explain the lopsidedness of the conservative talk shows' dominance. Almost all of the big nationally syndicated talk show hosts are conservative.

Does anyone think Ford avoids selling cars to liberals?

That is what I mean. Ford is not likely to sponsor a liberal talk show host who is likely to call Ford hypocritical for claiming to be pro-environment while concentrating on producing big, gas-guzzling SUV's.

MikeMangum said (10.13.2007 12:24am) --

IMO one of the biggest reasons for the dominance of conservative radio talk shows is that advertisers prefer talk show hosts who tend to have an audience

See my above discussion.
10.13.2007 2:10am
Kurmudge (mail):
REF Fud and M. Simon, going forward there is no shortage whatever of carrier bandwidth with which to broadcast. All you do is sandwich multiple digital data streams to be decoded on any frequency, and pick up your choice with a digital receiver, exactly as the transition was made in cellular phones from analog to digital. You can have thousands and thousands of powerful, non-interfering stations in any metro area.

That shows that the original justification for any regulation of speech, due to the constitutional concern over "limited frequency" is nonsense. Any attempt to push this again is exactly what it looks like, a censorship-based power grab by elites to end-run free expression and make up for losing in the marketplace with the heavy hand of governemnt run by guess-who.

And, as usual, you notice that the defenders of speech codes are all on the left.
10.13.2007 10:27am
Elliot123 (mail):
Larry Fafarman: "That is what I mean. Ford is not likely to sponsor a liberal talk show host who is likely to call Ford hypocritical for claiming to be pro-environment while concentrating on producing big, gas-guzzling SUV's."

We might look at actual broadcast shows to test that idea. The TV show Boston Legal regularly slams big business. However, its popularity ensures it has lots of available sponsors. 60 Minutes and 20/20 have done the same thing for years, yet they don't lack sponsors.

Air America explained the dominance of conservative talk shows: the liberals didn't listen to Al Franken and Randi Rhodes. Can anyone tell us why they don't?
10.13.2007 3:19pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Kurmudge said,
REF Fud and M. Simon, going forward there is no shortage whatever of carrier bandwidth with which to broadcast. All you do is sandwich multiple digital data streams to be decoded on any frequency, and pick up your choice with a digital receiver, exactly as the transition was made in cellular phones from analog to digital. You can have thousands and thousands of powerful, non-interfering stations in any metro area.

Yes, and people can also broadcast their ideas by means of CB radio, ham radio, and walkie-talkies. Or as others have suggested, you could just buy a big established broadcasting station for only a few million dollars. You would need to spend just a few million more to advertise that the station is under new management.

And as you said, you need a special receiver for these radio programs transmitted on the same frequencies by means of data compression.

Your argument is what I call a "let them eat cake" argument, offering worthless, inferior, or unrealistic alternatives.

If, hypothetically, your comments on this blog were censored, where do you think you could post them where they would have the same effect?
10.13.2007 4:04pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Here is another view about the fairness doctrine.
10.13.2007 4:18pm
Mitchell J. Freedman (mail) (www):
John Burgess wrote:

"Well, I'm 60, grew up in a strongly union and liberal household, and think Sucher's ideas are dangerous beyond belief. "

Ok, guess I should respect my elders, but where's the evidence that Sucher's ideas are "dangerous beyond belief"?

"Government simply has no business whatsoever in trying to determine which political philosophies (beyond calls to armed revolution) are 'worthy' of sharing the public airwaves."

Except the history of the Fairness Doctrine the point was to expand political discourse beyond narrow right wing confines more often than not. Those who own stations and owned them in the 1950s and 1960s were pro-corporate, and in the South, virulently racist.

"As others have noted above, it looks perfectly fine as long as your side of the argument is on the 'winning' side. A failure of imagination (or an insufficient sense of history) assumes that one's own side will always be on top."

Without the Fairness Doctrine, corporate priorities in punditry increased, not decreased. Those who are left or liberal in punditry don't get business revenue, which leads corporate execs to kill shows with decent to good ratings like Jim Hightower's radio show in the 1990s and Phil Donahue's show in 2003. Yet, low rated shows like Glenn Beck's and Joe Scarborough's stay on and on and on...To be oblivious to this economic consequence is, to quote a phrase, "beyond belief."

And please, John, let's get to the point where we have to be nice and fair to the right wing because they are so outnumered on radio and television. I know I should respect my elders, but some empiricism would do you some good.
10.13.2007 7:51pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Phil Donahue had terrible 2003 MSNBC ratings. Donahue himself complains because the network didn't give him the time he thought necessary to build the ratings. Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann are on MSNBC in the tme slot Donahue used to have. Both are liberal.

Oprah regularly expresses liberal political views and she does just fine. She stays on TV because she can generate the audience. Donahue did the same in the 26 years his daily syndicated TV show was on the air.
10.14.2007 2:13am
Mike S.:
Air America failed not because Liberals won't listen to talk radio, nor becuase advertisers won't support liberal media (they have no problems with the networks or with the major papers) but because it was (in the view of this generally moderately liberal listener) awful radio. Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly are far more entertaining, even when they are making me so angry I feel like hitting the radio, than anyone on Air America was, and usually more coherent as well.
I kept two of my car radio buttons on Air America but I could rarely stand to listen for more than 10 minutes. The only host I could manage regularly was Ed Schultz, and he was syndicated by someone other than Air America (and had a tendency to spend more time than I like on fishing and college basketball)

NPR has any number of liberal leaning talk shows that draw an audience and stay on the air.

As to the airwaves being a scarce resource because broadcast liscenses are expensive, when you find me a city with more newspapers than radio stations, I'll consider it.

I, too, am old enough to remember the heyday of the fairness Doctrine, and its primary effect was not to provide a variety of viewpoints on political issues, but to dramatically limit broadcast of any viewpoint.
10.14.2007 2:50am
Mitchell J. Freedman (mail) (www):
Excuse me, but Donahue had the highest ratings of any MSNBC show at the time, including Matthews, he was ripped off the air. Hightower's ratings were more than respectable, but his ad revenue was weak because of his anti-corporate message--and ABC's standards said that he couldn't accept union ads because those were deemed to be an advocacy group, no different than the NRA or the ACLU. Donahue was also taken off because he was against the Iraq War and Hightower was removed at the end because he had dared to criticize ABC for selling its company to Disney.

And if anyone thinks Matthews is a liberal like Glenn Beck or Rush are conservatives, then they are not watching or listening carefully.

Air America struck me as paying way to much to administration costs, and it needed to grow more organically. It also learned too late that it did not need "stars" like Al Franken, as it could grow lesser known names like Ed Schultz.

Yes, there were more radio stations in the 1950s and 1960s than newspapers in most towns, but not because there was a limited bandwidth from a technological perspective. That was the point of the first regulations of radio in the 1920s when the FCC was created.

And finally, to the person who was old enough to recall the Fairness Doctrine meant that there was a dramatic limitation of viewpoints, then I must rather snarkily sugget that person was living in some alternative universe. There was far more diversity of punditry opinion in the 1950s and 1960s than there are currently on pundit shows (to use apples to apples comparisons, we should stick to the three main networks). I think back, for one immediate example, to Agronsky &Company, a forerunner of the McLaughlin Group, where Agronsky even had socialistic journalists such as IF Stone as commenters. McLaughlin doesn't have to do that and has a fairly cramped group. Why? Because his networks which carry him have no concern about whether they have done their best to promote a fair exchange of ideas.

Still, even during the reign of the Fairness Doctrine, for most parts of the nation, there was still a decidedly right wing bias and often a racist bias in the South and lower Mid-West. That is the structural bias that too many commenters here are oblivious to recognizing. To look at the Fairness Doctrine in the crabbed ACLU-ish way that too many commenters are looking at it, is to look through the telescope through the wrong side.
10.14.2007 11:38am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Mike S. said,
As to the airwaves being a scarce resource because broadcast liscenses are expensive, when you find me a city with more newspapers than radio stations, I'll consider it.

All that says is that newspapers are scarcer than radio stations.

If you think that radio stations are cheap, why don't you go out and buy one?

BTW, the Supreme Court has been two-faced about allowing fairness doctrines for broadcasters and newspapers. In Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, the Supreme Court upheld the FCC's "personal attack" and "political editorial" rules requiring free radio time to answer direct attacks made against individuals or organizations, but in Miami Herald v. Tornillo a few years later the SC struck down a Florida law that had a similar requirement for newspapers. See items #5 and #8 in this article.

Three are actually two scarcity/abundance issues, the scarcity/abundance of sites and the scarcity/abundance of time or space per site. Despite the scarcity of broadcasting sites, I oppose a full fairness doctrine for broadcasters because of the scarcity of broadcasting time per site. However, because of the super-abundance of comment space on blogs, I favor a "fairness doctrine" that would prohibit bloggers from arbitrarily censoring visitors' comments.
10.14.2007 11:59am
Elliot123 (mail):
There seems to be an assumption by some folks that one has to buy a radio license or own a station in order to have a program broadcast. Rush Limbaugh doesn't own the stations he is heard on. Neither does Hannity, Laura Ingram, or O'Reilly. Neither Robert Reich, Daniel Shoar, or Bill Moyes own the stations on which they are heard. Air America didn't own the stations it broadcast on. Matthews and Olberman don't own MSNBC. Oprah doesn't own the stations that broadcast her.

They all make a deal with any one of the multitude of available stations in each market. They provide a show, the station pays them, advertisers pay the station, and listeners tune into the show. It's really that easy.

There are so many stations in each market (I just googled 38 in an average metro area of one million)that there is no monopoly, and there is easy access to the airwaves. There is a simple rule: if you can generate an audience you succeed. If you can't you fail.

And Donahue's MSNBC run is a classic example. A major network put him up against O'Reilly at the same time. Note the major network was owned by Microsoft and GE, two titans of business and industry. Donahue had plenty of advance publicity on MSNBC and many other outlets. And he was a proven name in the business. Twenty-six years on TV is quite a success record. So, can anyone tell us why a seasoned professional like Donahue saw his ratings start off high, then tank, while at the same time O'Reilly's ratings increased.
10.14.2007 1:10pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"However, because of the super-abundance of comment space on blogs, I favor a "fairness doctrine" that would prohibit bloggers from arbitrarily censoring visitors' comments."

Sounds like a Free-Rider Doctrine. People who create blogs work hard and generate readers. Then the self-important want a right exploit their hard work.

Blogs can be set up with about ten munutes effort. There is no barrier to entry. Anyone who wants to do it can do it. That's what the people who started successful blogs did. The future will see successful blogs that don't even exist today.

There is also an interesting economic question. Bloggers pay for the bandwidth they use. Each additional comment they send out generates some additional cost to them. The more successful they are, the more they pay. Should they also subsidize the folks who can't get ther own readership?
10.14.2007 1:21pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
I gather that there are an awful lot (no pun intended) of young and naive right-wingers here so I won't hold you to a standard of historical commonsense. But you should go back and learn a bit about what American media was like in the 50s and 60s. Again, The Fairness Doctrine was used to attempt to gain a voice and not to squelch one.

As well, you must understand that the air waves are indeed a limited natural resource owned by the public and that's a big factor in the rationale for the Fairness Doctrine.
10.14.2007 1:44pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
btw, I hate to quote Brad DeLong but he's right-on in reminding us how far conservatives have come from the 1950s and 60s when their view of Martin Luither King was that he was undermining the country's moral fiber.
http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2007/10/national-review.html

Here's a direct quote from the National Review. Read it and barf:


For years now, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates have been deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country. With their rabble-rousing demagoguery, they have been cracking the "cake of custom" that holds us together. With their doctrine of "civil disobedience," they have been teaching hundreds of thousands of Negroes — particularly the adolescents and the children — that it is perfectly alright to break the law and defy constituted authority if you are a Negro-with-a-grievance; in protest against injustice.


You young folks just have to read some history before you start talking about the past. (Now don't get all sensitive emotional on me; I a making a joke because so many of you think I sound young, which considering my actual age, I should take as a compliment. For god's sake I sure am glad I don't sound calcified and ready for 5 PM dinners at the Royal Trough buffet.)
10.14.2007 1:56pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"As well, you must understand that the air waves are indeed a limited natural resource owned by the public and that's a big factor in the rationale for the Fairness Doctrine."

We might class them as a limited resource because of the physics involved, but in each market what is the extent of concentration of ownership? Are there any radio markets in the US in which there is not healthy competition? Are there any radio markets in the US which can be described as economic monopolies? In what US radio market is there a single station? Only two? Only three?

There might be more rationale for the FD if there really was only one station that could be broadcast in each market. But that's not the case. When a single meduim-sized market boasts 38 radio stations, we don't face monopoly abuses.
10.14.2007 2:13pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
The question is not "monopoly" in an anti-trust sense (though the wisdom of restrictions on multiple-station ownership are proven reasonable by Clearchannel) but the simple fact that it is a public resource and the public should have a say in how it is used.

Remember? "Ownership has its privileges." The public owns the airwaves.
10.14.2007 2:19pm
Elliot123 (mail):
But it woud be nice to show that additional regulations serve some public purpose. History shows us that liberals have had ample opportunity to broadcast their views. They still have that oppostunity, and they still take advantage of it. If some particular subset of liberals can't get anyone to listen to them, is that a matter of public ownership policy?

The public does own the airwaves, and the public has access to them, liberals included. I doubt the issue is over ownership; rather it is over whether there really is a problem for which regulation is a solution. The FD was dropped because the commission saw so many opinion venues avaialble that it saw no public policy problem. Now there are even more.

Does hard work and success by one group demonstrate unfairness to another when the same opportunities are avaiable to both?

I still can't understand why Donahue, arguably the best TV host America has ever produced, failed so miserably. He had it all. Big station, big name, great time slot, lots of promotion, free hand, lots of issues, opposition party in power, etc. But O'Reilly wiped the deck with him. Why? Why didn't liberals tune in?
10.14.2007 2:43pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Elliot123 said (10.14.2007 12:21pm) --
"However, because of the super-abundance of comment space on blogs, I favor a "fairness doctrine" that would prohibit bloggers from arbitrarily censoring visitors' comments."
People who create blogs work hard and generate readers. Then the self-important want a right exploit their hard work.

Show me where the First Amendment says anything about "hard work."

Let's go over this again --

(1) The bigger blogs -- including this one -- have become major de facto public forums.

(2) Blogs -- including this one -- have been authoritatively cited in court opinions, scholarly journal articles, the official news media, etc., making fairness and accuracy of particular importance.

In fact, a Senate committee recently voted to give BVD-clad bloggers (I call them "BVD-clad" instead of "pajama-clad" because Hugh Hefner considers pajamas to be formal wear) the "reporter's privilege." BVD-clad bloggers want privileges without responsibilities -- they want the reporter's privilege but they don't want a fairness doctrine.

Blogs can be set up with about ten munutes effort. There is no barrier to entry.

That is the "let them eat cake" argument that I have already dismissed. If, hypothetically, your comments were censored on this blog, where do you think you could post them where they would have the same effect?

There is also an interesting economic question. Bloggers pay for the bandwidth they use. Each additional comment they send out generates some additional cost to them.

Wrong -- Blogger.com is a free blog service and you are not required to carry any advertising. And freedom of expression is not just a matter of money.
10.14.2007 4:04pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
David Sucher,

The Fairness Doctrine was used to attempt to gain a voice and not to squelch one.

But, but . . . the material EV quoted from Friendly in this post demonstrates that that isn't true; the quotes from Ruder, Phillips, and Firestone all make explicit that making it too expensive and burdensome to broadcast right-wing material in the first place (rather than "balancing" it) was part of the point, indeed likely the primary point.

I don't see how you can read the post and conclude that "gaining a voice" was what mattered most. Or indeed that "gaining a voice" was even mildly important. Read it again; does anyone sound distressed at the thought of stations canceling right-wing programs rather than "balancing" them? Even a little?
10.14.2007 4:34pm
Mitchell J. Freedman (mail) (www):
Oy. Hopefully my last comment:

Donahue's show did not tank. Again, it had the highest ratings on MSNBC, which was itself not doing well--and still not doing well--against FoxNews' pundits, particluarly O'Reilly.

The point though was that Donahue was canceled, not the shows on MSNBC doing much worse, including Matthews/Hardball. Scarborough has never done as well as Donahue and he remains on the air.

And look at Glenn Beck's abysmal and pathetic ratings at CNN Headline News.

What does this mean? It's the economics of power and reality, not the textbook. Advertisers support Beck, Scarborough and Matthews in a way they will never support any economic populist voice. That 's their initial right, but the networks should be under an obligation, something like the Fairness Doctrine to expand the scope or diversity of political voices.

What Fred Friendly missed in his discussion was that there was no strong or countervailing voice in favor of civil rights in too many southern radio and television stations. They may have felt like jackboots in using the Fairness Doctrine years after the fact, but really, they were doing a public service. And were increasing the diversity of voices, not limiting them.
10.14.2007 4:58pm
Mac (mail):
"I realize that for people like you the civil rights and voting rights acts were probably an unmitigated disaster, but that is progress."

This and other comments on this blog seem to indicate that "right-wingers" were the only ones opposed to civil rights.

A little history here, folks. The South was heavily Democratic and it was Democratic Governor's blocking (literally) black people from going through the doors of the schools, not right-wing Republicans or Republicans of any kind. And, in the 50's, there were plenty (I would say the vast majority) of Democrats who were opposed to civil rights. You can quote a few Conservative articles all you want. The fact is, many people on both sides were against civil rights. The Unions certainly did their damnest to keep black people out. It was a very different time.

However, it was the Democrats, not Republicans, who fought the hardest against integration as it was the Democrats who were in control in the South, in particular.



"The fundamental problem of any fairness doctrine is that it posits the existence of some body with the Solomonic ability to determine what is
fair"

Exactly. I vividly recall a discussion on NPR about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. NPR's idea of fairness was to have a very anti-Israel Palestinian on and an equally anti-Israel Jew on. I am sure in their Liberal mindset, that was more than "fair".

That said, I would gladly go along with a resurrection of the fairness doctrine if it were to apply to all the major newspapers and to ABC, CBS NBC, MSNBC, CNN. If "scarcity" or even money is a criterion, then given that most cities have only one newspaper, then there is a lot of work to be done there to "force" them to present the Center and Right of Center viewpoint. After all, Conservatives can't just go out and but a newspaper any more easily than Liberals seem to think they can buy a radio station. And, if you look at newspaper ownership, you will find, I think, that there is much more of a monopoly in ownership there than you will find in radio stations.



Even with cable, TV is limited to 6 stations that present news on a regular basis. I would love to see balance forced on the 5 listed above. Liberals won't agree with me, I know, but Fox would have the easiest time adhering to the Fairness Doctrine. I like hearing both sides. I only get that on Fox. And, everything that can be said about radio stations and public airways can certainly be said about TV stations.
Couldn't we apply this to Universities as well if they take Government money?

Now, there is a real monopoly. A student could scarcely find a university that offers a conservative viewpoint on anything.
So, this may fall under the category of, "Be careful what you ask for as you just might get it".
10.14.2007 5:04pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Show me where the First Amendment says anything about "hard work."

Let's go over this again --

(1) The bigger blogs -- including this one -- have become major de facto public forums.

(2) Blogs -- including this one -- have been authoritatively cited in court opinions, scholarly journal articles, the official news media, etc., making fairness and accuracy of particular importance. "


The First Amendment says nothing about hard work. So what? I simply note those who think their ideas are so important that they should be published by someone else have not done that hard work.

Some blogs have become public forums. So what?

Some blogs have been cited by others. So what? The burden is on the person citing a reference to ensure that he is citing something accurate. How would unrestrained comments do anything to ensure the accuracy of anything?

"In fact, a Senate committee recently voted to give BVD-clad bloggers (I call them "BVD-clad" instead of "pajama-clad" because Hugh Hefner considers pajamas to be formal wear) the "reporter's privilege." BVD-clad bloggers want privileges without responsibilities -- they want the reporter's privilege but they don't want a fairness doctrine."

OK. What's your point? If the bloggers are getting a reporter'sprivlege, what is the fairness doctrine that accompanies it? Does a reporter have a fairness doctrine he must adhere to? What is it? Who enforces it? Where is it documented?

"That is the "let them eat cake" argument that I have already dismissed. If, hypothetically, your comments were censored on this blog, where do you think you could post them where they would have the same effect?"

I don't know where I could post them with the same effect. So what? I am not aware of any right I have to have someone else carry my ideas, regardless of how important I think they are. I really am a very importnat person and my ideas are brilliant. Do you think I have that right?

"Wrong -- Blogger.com is a free blog service and you are not required to carry any advertising. And freedom of expression is not just a matter of money."

So, your recommendations apply only to Blogger.com and other free services?

Face it. Most people don't care what most bloggers have to say. They are relegated to the insignificant. They can't make it on their own. Those who don't matter want to catch a free ride from those who have succeeded.
10.14.2007 5:44pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Donahue's show did not tank. Again, it had the highest ratings on MSNBC, which was itself not doing well--and still not doing well--against FoxNews' pundits, particluarly O'Reilly."

If everybody on a net has low ratings, that still means Donahue had terrible ratings. Compare him to his opposite number, O'Reilly. Donahue claimed O'Reilly was his target. Low rated nets don't like to stay there. They keep switching shows in order to get higher ratings. MSNBC has had a revolving door of shows trying to get better.

Donahue says it was cancelled due to poor ratings. His major complaint with MSNBC was they did not give the show enough time to generate an audience.

My question remains. Why did so many people watch O'Reilly, while so few watched Donahue? It was a perfect test situation. The people knew Donahue was there because he had great ratings the first week.

Oprah is quite liberal and has many populist attitudes. Pontiac gave away a free car to everyone in the audience last year. Advertisers line up to get a slot on her show. 20/20 faked car crashes and they still get large corporate sponsors because they still get a good audience.
10.14.2007 6:06pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> The public owns the airwaves.

The public owns the sidewalks where newspaper racks are placed. Does that mean that the public can regulate the content of newspapers in those racks?

The public owns the roads. Can the public regulate the contents of newspapers that are transported in trucks over those roads.

The USPS is govt owned. Can the public regulate the contents of newspapers delivered by mail?

> "Ownership has its privileges."

Except where your ox is being gored.

All of the arguments about radio apply even more so to other media, but radio is the only media singled out because it's the media where conservatives have had some success.

I'm pretty sure that conservatives will be happy to trade radio for newspapers and TV.
10.14.2007 9:36pm
Chimaxx (mail):
A new fairness doctrine aimed only at broadcast TV and broadcast radio would have only one beneficiary: satellite radio. I don't have cable TV, but I still have access to a lot of cable content through iTunes, YouTube, CVC rental, etc. While broadcast TV over the public airwaves is still a fairly vibrant medium, the costs of switching to non-public-airwaves distribution are fairly low--the distribution system to customers is already widespread and the advertising infrastructure already well-established.

Radio broadcasters would have two choices: internet streaming/podcasting or satellite radio. Building an advertising/subscription/revenue structure for Internet broadcasting/podcasting would prove challenging at this point, and the technical infrastructure for distribution to automobiles and other untethered receivers isn't there and isn't likely to be any time soon. On the other hand, on satellite radio, it would be easy to move both the untethered-listener distribution and advertising/revenue models over...if there were enough subscribers to the satellite radio service(s). The one sure way to make that happen is to move enough popular commentators/personalities there from the public airwaves in order to escape the strictures of the Fairness Doctrine.

So anyone trying to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine in this day and age--no matter what their ideological stripe--most likely is looking out for the best interests of the fledgling satellite radio industry, regardless of what arguments they make in favor of reinstituting it.
10.15.2007 2:00am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Donahue's show did not tank. Again, it had the highest ratings on MSNBC, which was itself not doing well--and still not doing well--against FoxNews' pundits, particluarly O'Reilly.

The point though was that Donahue was canceled, not the shows on MSNBC doing much worse, including Matthews/Hardball. Scarborough has never done as well as Donahue and he remains on the air.

And look at Glenn Beck's abysmal and pathetic ratings at CNN Headline News.
This is a simplistic argument which demonstrates a misunderstanding of the way television works.

If you take all the network entertainment shows -- normal, prime time shows like CSI, Desperate Housewives, Law &Order, America's Next Top Model, etc. -- it isn't the bottom X shows in overall ratings which get cancelled. Shows are not simply blindly ranked by overall ratings against shows on different networks, in different timeslots, etc.

1) Ratings in the demo matter as much as, or often more than, overall ratings. Networks want 18-49 (or even better, 18-35) much more than they want old people. The West Wing was much more successful than shows with higher ratings because it attracted a very upscale audience. (My guess, without checking it out, is that Hardball's audience skewed much younger than Donahue's.)

2) Production costs matter (though this isn't particularly a factor for the news shows you're discussing), which is why reality shows are so prevalent. They're significantly cheaper to make than scripted dramas.

3) Shows are judged by whether they maximize the potential of a given slot, not whether they do as well as different shows in different slots. You're held to a different standard against American Idol than against, say, Reaper. You're held to a different standard on the CW than on CBS. You're held to a different standard on Friday nights than on Thursday nights. You're held to a different standard if you _follow_ American Idol than if you follow, say, Reaper. What a network wants is, when it has a popular show, that the following show will hold onto its audience. If you draw a 7 when the show on before you had a 10, that's worse than drawing a 6 when the show on before you had a 6.

In short, no conspiracy theories required.
10.15.2007 3:31am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Elliot123 said (10.14.2007 4:44pm):
The First Amendment says nothing about hard work. So what?

It means that hard work does not give one the right to suppress others' freedom of expression.

Some blogs have become public forums. So what?

So you agree that some blogs have become public forums. When something becomes a public forum, all the protections of free speech on public forums apply.

Some blogs have been cited by others. So what?

They have not just been cited, but they have been authoritatively cited by court opinions, scholarly journal articles, the major news media, etc..

The burden is on the person citing a reference to ensure that he is citing something accurate.

That is why bloggers who arbitrarily censor visitors' comments should be required by law to post a prominent notice stating that they do so.

How would unrestrained comments do anything to ensure the accuracy of anything?

An unrestrained comment could point out a factual error in the blog article or in other comments. And an unrestrained comment can present a different opinion.

OK. What's your point? If the bloggers are getting a reporter'sprivlege, what is the fairness doctrine that accompanies it?

That's the problem -- in the present Congressional bills, a blogging fairness doctrine does not accompany the grant of the reporter's privilege to bloggers. BVD-clad bloggers are getting something for nothing.

I don't know where I could post them with the same effect.

So you are at last beginning to see where the problem is.

I am not aware of any right I have to have someone else carry my ideas, regardless of how important I think they are.

Well, then you should be pleased to know that proper legislation can give you that right.

Does a reporter have a fairness doctrine he must adhere to? What is it?

The Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics says that journalists should, among other things,

— Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
— Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.

Also, courts, scholarly journals, the major news media, etc. could have rules against citation of blogs whose bloggers arbitrarily censor visitors' comments.


So, your recommendations apply only to Blogger.com and other free services?

No, I didn't say that.

Face it. Most people don't care what most bloggers have to say.

Wrong. As I pointed out, blogs are being authoritatively cited in court opinions, scholarly journal articles, etc..
10.15.2007 5:13am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> The Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics says that journalists should, among other things,

That's nice, but until reporters are threatened with jail for refusing to publish dissenting opinion and/or response, the existence of that code doesn't support the argument that others should be threatened with jail for refusing to do so.

Let's do all of the content restriction experimentation on traditional media first. If it works there, we'll see about extending to broadcast TV. Success there too and maybe we'll extend it more.

What? You're unwilling to restrict the NYT, WaPost, etc?
10.15.2007 11:05am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Ford is not likely to sponsor a liberal talk show host who is likely to call Ford hypocritical for claiming to be pro-environment while concentrating on producing big, gas-guzzling SUV's.

The "big 3" US automakers would reap huge financial benefits from "single payer healthcare". Since they're supposedly driving political debate in the US and what they advocate is wrong, we can safely conclude that single payer is a disaster.
10.15.2007 1:04pm
Elliot123 (mail):
If I am very interested in having my work published, and nobody wants to read it, then I might have a problem. But does that mean my problem should be resolved by imposing an obligation on private individuals using privately owned assets to publish my work? It's probably a hard pill for people to swallow, but a lack of an audience may very well be an accurate measure of the value of one's work.
10.15.2007 5:06pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Elliot123 said,
If I am very interested in having my work published, and nobody wants to read it, then I might have a problem. But does that mean my problem should be resolved by imposing an obligation on private individuals using privately owned assets to publish my work?

Just think of a blogging "fairness doctrine" as being like a tax on private property.

It's probably a hard pill for people to swallow, but a lack of an audience may very well be an accurate measure of the value of one's work.

Blog readers should be allowed to decide for themselves whether a visitor's comment has value to them -- the blogger should not make that decision for them.
10.15.2007 10:02pm
Elliot123 (mail):

Intellectual Failure Tax of 2007? An IFT on book publishers so unread authors could see their books gathering dust in Barnes &Noble? Another IFT on newspapers so unread OpEd writers could see their name in print? Maybe an IFT on movie studios so failed directors could feel good? Cable TV could pay an IFT by running failed situation comedies? Don't forget an IFT on art galleries so failed painters can revel in their work hanging next to successful painters. Just think of it all as a property tax. Remember, falures are people, too.
10.16.2007 12:08am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Elliot123 said,

Intellectual Failure Tax of 2007?

Comments are arbitrarily censored because they are good comments. The bloggers delete the comments because they are unable to counter them. There is no reason to arbitrarily censor comments that are bad or that can be refuted or countered.
10.16.2007 1:28am
Elliot123 (mail):
OK. Good point. Amend the legislative title to:

Intellectual Failure And Arbitrary Victims Tax 2007
10.16.2007 1:01pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
OK. Good point.

Thank you.

Amend the legislative title to:

Intellectual Failure And Arbitrary Victims Tax 2007

It doesn't matter what it's called. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
10.16.2007 3:29pm