Air America Founder Agrees With Rush on Fairness Doctrine

You want to talk about politics making strange bedfellows, the founder of the liberal talk radio station Air America actually agrees with Rush Limbaugh's view of the Fairness Doctrine.

Not only that, Jon Sinden even had an op-ed published in Monday's Wall Street Journal saying so.

I kid you not.

UPDATE: Readers are advised that Sinden is no longer affiliated with Air America, and that current management does support a reenactment of the Fairness Doctrine.

In a piece entitled "Limbaugh Is Right on the Fairness Doctrine," with the delicious sub-headline "Liberals don't need equal-time rules to compete," Sinden espoused views most Air America listeners are sure to disagree with (emphasis added):

Conservative talk radio has worked itself into a tizzy lately over the rumored revival of the Fairness Doctrine -- the FCC policy that sought to enforce balanced discussion on the nation's airwaves.

As the founding president of Air America Radio, I believe that for the last eight years Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have been cheerleaders for everything wrong with our economic, foreign and domestic policies. But when it comes to the Fairness Doctrine, I couldn't agree with them more. The Fairness Doctrine is an anachronistic policy that, with the abundance of choices on radio today, is entirely unnecessary. [...]

The conventional wisdom is that Rush's success depended on the 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. Some say that if he had to make time for opposing opinions, Rush would have flopped. Personally, I think he is most entertaining when he is dismantling opposing arguments. He's successful because he is a superior entertainer.

Rush created the new AM template, and it spread like wildfire. When programmers and sales managers get a whiff of success, it is cloned in every conceivable way until the audience, once grateful for innovation, tunes out.

So why didn't liberal talk radio flourish as well? [...]

First, boring hosts made the occasional, unsuccessful foray (sorry, Mario Cuomo). Second, some talented lefties like Mike Malloy were cast into the abyss of right-wing talk radio where they were completely out of place. [...]

Finally, most broadcast owners are conservative. Programs like Rush's have made them rich, so the last thing they want is to mess with success, particularly if it entails airing opinions they don't share. [...]

When we founded Air America, we aimed to establish a talk network that lived at the intersection of politics and entertainment. Of course, we were motivated by our political leanings. But as a lifelong broadcaster, I was certain that at least half the American audience was underserved by conservative talk radio. Here was an opportunity to capture listeners turned off by the likes of, say, Sean Hannity. The business opportunity was enticing.

It never occurred to me to argue for reimposing the Fairness Doctrine. Instead, I sought to capitalize on the other side of a market the right already had built.

Wouldn't it be nice if more liberals felt this way?

Bravo, Jon. You've got a lot of nerve to write this piece.

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Noel Sheppard's picture