CNN Reruns Flawed 2009 Report on Fairness Doctrine, Promoting More Radio Stations for Randi Rhodes

March 3rd, 2011 5:09 PM

CNN's Carol Costello re-aired a biased report she did in 2009 about liberal efforts to push localism to limit the influence of conservative talk radio. During the report, Costello omitted the left-of-center source of a statistic she used, that 91% of talk radio is apparently conservative. She also tilted towards localism by playing three sound bites in favor of the proposal, versus two against it.

The CNN anchor introduced her report, which originally aired on the October 21, 2009 edition of American Morning, by noting that "House Speaker John Boehner told the National Religious Broadcasters Convention he and other Republicans are working on a bill that ensures the Fairness Doctrine will not be revived, ever. Boehner says it's important because the Fairness Doctrine silences ideas and voices."

Costello then gave only two brief indications that her report was over a year old. She stated that "The controversy over the Fairness Doctrine, or as some like to call it, localism, boiled over a few years ago as progressives fought for what they call a fighting chance to have their voices heard." Actually, the Fairness Doctrine and localism are two separate issues, something she actually acknowledged during her original introduction to the report: "It’s unlikely the Fairness Doctrine will return, but there is something else many liberal talkers are fighting for: localism." In addition to this, a graphic flashed on the screen for only seven seconds: "Original Airdate 2009" (see below).

Screen Cap from 3 March 2011 Report on CNN Newsroom |

I did the original item on Costello's report back in 2009, and the following details should be pointed out again:

Near the end of her report...the CNN correspondent cited ultra-left talker Randi Rhodes (all three clips in favor of localism came from Rhodes), who “says millions of Americans get their political talk from AM radio -- 91 percent of which is conservative.” Costello didn’t cite the source of the figure, which comes from a 2007 report by two liberal organizations -- the Center for American Progress and Free Press -- and co-authored by Mark Lloyd, who is now the FCC’s “chief diversity officer.” The correspondent touted the figure as well during a report on Monday’s American Morning, where she claimed that it came from “Talkers” magazine. The figure itself is misleading because, as MRC’s Culture and Media Institute pointed out, the CAP report ignored “non-commercial radio,” such as NPR and other public radio networks.

Earlier in the segment, Costello put the localism issue in the context of the past Fairness Doctrine, and before playing the first bite from Rhodes, acknowledged that “it’s unlikely the Fairness Doctrine will return, but there is something else many liberal talkers are fighting for- localism.” She also downplayed talk show host’s leftism, merely labeling her as a “progressive political talker.”

Rhodes came out of gate with her advocacy of localism in the first clip: “If you know that you live in a town where everybody votes Democratic [Washington, DC], and all you have on your radio is conservative talk, then you can see how localism isn’t part of the equation in media programming.” Costello then explained what that “localism...means radio stations would be forced to carry more local programming that appeals to local audiences. Right now, big broadcasting companies like ClearChannel Communications...own hundreds of radio stations across the country, and much of what they broadcast aren’t shows with local personalities, but syndicated shows featuring Rush Limbaugh...and Sean Hannity.”

Costello lined up a second bite from Rhodes before even turning to her two clips from critics of localism:

Carol Costello, CNN Anchor | NewsBusters.orgRHODES: Diversity always gets a better result than just as one steady- you know, lock-step repetition of talking - same talking points, over and over.

COSTELLO: In November, the FCC will hold a media workshop, as is required every four years. Among the topics, the state of the current media marketplace.

BOB DURGIN: Men and women are dying over there-

COSTELLO: Bob Durgin, a conservative talker in Pennsylvania, is weary of localism.

DURGIN: They want to program the radio station. They want to tell the people what they’re going to hear. They don’t want the people hearing what they want to hear. They want the people to hear what they want the people to hear, and they want people to hear more liberal radio, more diversity.

COSTELLO: Durgin says liberals want it all, even though they have plenty now- not only on the radio and cable TV, but on commercial TV, and in Hollywood.

MICHAEL MOORE (from Capitalism: A Love Story): Congressman Dolittle, Michael Moore-

COSTELLO: Camille Paglia, a social critic and Obama supporter.

CAMILLE PAGLIA: I find the motivation for this- all this talk about the local show, is actually covert. It’s actually a way to try to ambush right-wing radio, which has indeed risen up as a powerful force, in response to the shutdown of conservative viewpoints coming from the major media.

The third clip from Rhodes came immediately after Costello used the dubious 91% statistic from the Center for American Progress report:

COSTELLO: Rhodes disagrees. She says millions of Americans get their political talk from AM radio: 91 percent of which is conservative.

RHODES: I do want to be on their stations. I want a crack at their audience, and let me live and die by the success or failure. But I don’t have that access.
— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.