Toledo Blade: Return of Fairness Doctrine Just Silly Conspiracy Theory...But We Want It Back

The Toledo Blade has published an editorial with a laughable split personality. First the Blade assures its readers that fears about the possible return of the Fairness Doctrine is just some silly conspiracy theory being perpetrated by conservatives...and then the Blade itself calls for the return of the Fairness Doctrine:

TALK of a liberal conspiracy to "hush Rush" by resurrecting broadcasting's "Fairness Doctrine" is silly, little more than a straw man bashed about regularly by politically conservative pitchmen eager to sustain their lucrative audiences in the waning days of AM radio.

Whew! Thank you for that assurance, Toledo Blade. Since there are now so many  Democrats such as Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Maurice Hinchey calling for the return of the Fairness Doctrine, it is good to know the fear of its return is just a form of paranoia. Our minds are at ease. Or at least they will be until we read the very next paragraph of the Blade's editorial:

Still, there's nothing wrong with restoring the notion that a wide range of ideas ought to have a place on the nation's radio airwaves, which are, after all, publicly owned - not the private property of a handful of corporate broadcasters.

Huh? First you assure us of how silly the idea of the Fairness Doctrine coming back is...and then you call for its return. Schizophrenia, they name is Toledo Blade. The editorial continues with its laughable self-contradiction by telling us how wonderful the Fairness Doctrine is on the heels of assuring us that fears of its return are just a paranoid fantasy:

One way to call attention to this principle would be for Congress to hold hearings, calling the AM radio potentates on the carpet to explain to the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet why their medium has become so one-sided in most communities.

Congressional hearings on an issue that the Toledo Blade has just informed us that fears of its return are just plain silly.

We also invite the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the problem in Toledo because this city is a case in point. Right-wing talkers on local stations have the last broadcast word on virtually any topic of public import. Divergent opinions are not only scorned, they're mostly not even heard.

"Right-wing talkers." The perfect tell that lets us know where the Toledo Blade is coming from.  As far as worries that "divergent opinions" are not even heard, has the Blade ever heard of a radio network called NPR?  Let us now continue to allow the Toledo Blade explain to us why the return of the Fairness Doctrine is so necessary even though we are paranoid to even think it might return:

This imbalance, conservatives claim, is simply because no one wants to hear liberal talk radio. But the truth is that opposing opinions have been pushed out as radio conglomerates obtained a stranglehold on scarce broadcast licenses.

To put a fine point on it, anyone can start a newspaper - no government license required. But AM broadcast licenses are all taken because of frequency interference issues, so no one need even apply.

That paradigm may change with the up and coming advent of Internet radio, streamed to homes and motor vehicles. But in the meantime, the public interest must not be sacrificed to narrow economic special interest.

Yeah, radio stations must be forced to broadcast those "winning" shows like Jim Hightower, Mario Cuomo, and the currently missing Randi Rhodes. But don't worry about the return of the Fairness Doctrine even though the Blade is telling us the radio "imbalance" must be corrected.

The Fairness Doctrine was established by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949 to make sure that the broadcast airwaves, considered a public trust granted to licensees, carried competing opinions on important issues. The need to mandate fairness was based in part, on the scarcity of radio and television stations. At that time there were fewer than 3,000 radio and 100 TV stations nationwide.

But by the 1980s, there were more than 10,000 radio and 1,400 TV stations, and cable television was opening the possibility of a seemingly unlimited number of TV outlets, all of which suggested to some that the public no longer needed protection from narrow propaganda.
More important, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and his FCC chairmen, first Mark Fowler and then Dennis Patrick, opposed the doctrine. When two federal judges - Reagan appointees Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia - ruled that the doctrine was not a statutory obligation, Mr. Patrick repealed it in 1989.

And suddenly many failing AM stations became economically successful but never mind that. The all-knowing Toledo Blade demands a return to the past.

While only one station's license was ever revoked under the Fairness Doctrine, since it was repealed there has been a steady increase in the dominance of conservative talk radio on stations across the country.

And, now, whenever someone bemoans the lack of liberal voices, conservative politicians and talk-show hosts scream that liberals are trying to silence Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage and others of their ilk by making broadcast companies choose either to air liberal shows nobody wants to listen to or broadcast fewer conservative talkers.

But no one we're aware of is demanding that right-wingers be kicked off the radio, or that stations become bland, ideological eunuchs. The issue is adding liberal commentators so there is some balance.

The issue is that most radio stations would prefer not to be forced to add money-losing liberal commentators like Jim Hightower and Mario Cuomo proved themselves to be. Many such stations would prefer to just drop the whole talk show format than add those losers but it the meantime it would also mean they would have to drop their winners such as Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham rather than lose their licenses. So tell us again why we shouldn't worry about the return of the Fairness Doctrine:

It's time for Congress to ask why the AM airwaves continue to be dominated by a narrow viewpoint and what effect that has on issues of public concern. And if broadcasters do not willingly provide listeners the range of opinions they need to figure out where they stand on these issues, perhaps it is time for the FCC to require that they fulfill the public trust.

Oops! Wrong part of the schizoid editorial. Hey! Why not just call it the "Balance Doctrine?" See, that way you won't sound so bizarre in mocking those who fear the return of the Fairness Doctrine when in the next breath for its return. Instead you could demand a "Balance Doctrine" without sounding quite so hypocritical. New name; same results.

Fairness Doctrine

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