Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fairness - Fair To Whom?

In an earlier incarnation of my life, I worked for a PBS television station¹. Politically it was somewhat left of center. I guess I was too, just not as much.

At that time there was this quirky little law called the Fairness Doctrine. The idea was that since there was only so much electromagnetic spectrum and it was the assignment of a public asset that it should not favor any one point of view - on anything. Should you have a panel where one doctor favors hysterectomies for uterine prolapse, equal time must me made for anyone with an opposing idea from the rational (ligature) to the irrational (you don't want to know). It was not merely political. And it was enforced by a barrage of litigation or threats of litigation. The lawyers loved it like sharks love seals.

The effect was obvious and intuitive. Nothing controversial would be broadcast. The stations protected themselves. It made for the most boring TV and radio ever.

The criteria that rationally causes the dominance of talk radio being Conservative are content, entertainment, and interest. Air America and the other Liberal talk radio outlets never understood that. That's why it died. Obviously, the first consideration is that people want to have their own ideas reinforced. But if the population is within a few points of being equally balanced, why aren't their equal numbers of talk shows being listened to by equal numbers of people? Hint - it is not because the media corporations restrict thought or the TV programs would be conservative too. Many times I tried to listen to Air America. I wanted to know what they think and I wanted to get perspective. But in every single case, I had to give up. The hosts were not just uninteresting, they were venomous. The hostility they projected was so strong that there was no hope of any of them ever convincing anyone of anything other than that they did not like {Bush|Capitalism|Christianity|Rush Limbaugh}², not even why they didn't like it. Such anger does not make good listening. Rush on the other hand says his point with disarming charm and a smile. He is a joy to listen to even when I disagree with him. That is typical of the Libertarian and Conservative hosts. Had the Liberals adopted that stance the fairness doctrine would not be necessary. All I can gather from it is that apparently Liberalism is so hostile at its core that they can not deliver it in a friendly way.

Get ready, the Fairness Doctrine coming back. Nancy Pelosi says it will be. It will not be a matching of ideas. It will be the absence of critical thought. If a radio station plays something from The Dead Kennedys, will it have to play Anthem by Rush?

¹ CPB they called it then. Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
² A computer convention meaning one of a set of choices.

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