The supposedly “free speech” left are out in force trying to silence all voices in the media with views different than their own just in time for the 2008 presidential campaign.
Potentially more worrisome, one liberal advocate in the middle of this debate has close ties to the Clintons, although it is quite unlikely the press will convey such when its recommendations are disseminated with their predictable stamp of approval.
*****Update: Michelle Malkin is all over this.
With that in mind, the left-leaning Center for American Progress published a report Thursday detailing how conservatives dominate the talk radio dial, and exactly what needs to be done legislatively for liberals to wrest control over this medium (emphasis added throughout):
- Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations.
- Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing.
- Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting.
For those unfamiliar with the Center, its President and CEO is none other than John Podesta, the former Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton. And:
- The Executive Vice President for Management is Sarah Rosen, who was also a member of the Clinton administration.
- Senior Vice President for Development Debbie Goldberg worked for the Clinton campaign.
- Senior Vice President and Director David Halperin was a speech writer for President Clinton.
- Vice President of Communications Jennifer Palmieri was Clinton’s White House Deputy Press Secretary.
- Senior Vice President for External Affairs Winnie Stachelberg worked at the Office of Management and Budget under Clinton.
- Vice President of Finance and Operations Brad Kiley worked for the Clinton administration.
- Ditto Peter Rundlet, Anna Soellner, Debbie Fine, and Michelle Jolin.
In reality, the staff and Senior Fellows listing of this Center reads like a Clinton administration Who’s Who.
Starting to get the picture? As you can imagine, this is why this group is so concerned with the following statistics it shared with its readers:
- 91 percent of the political talk radio programming on the stations owned by the top five commercial station owners is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.
- 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk radio are broadcast each weekday on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk.
- 92 percent of these stations (236 stations out of 257) do not broadcast a single minute of progressive talk radio programming.
Picture becoming clearer? Yet, there was more:
- 76 percent of the total talk radio programming on the 65 stations in the top 10 markets is conservative, and 24 percent is progressive.
- 423 hours and 40 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast in the top 10 markets each weekday compared to 135 hours of progressive talk.
- More conservative talk is broadcast than progressive talk in each of the top 10 markets, although the disparity is less than five hours of total airtime in New York (18 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk vs.16 hours of progressive talk) and Chicago (33 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk vs. 29 hours of progressive talk).
- In four of the top 10 markets, progressive talk is broadcast only two hours or less each weekday (Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta).
Understand why these folks are unhappy?
Of course, as you would imagine, these folks don’t believe these statistics are at all a function of market forces. Instead:
Our view is that the imbalance in talk radio programming today is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast regulation resulting from pro-forma licensing policies,17 longer license terms (to eight years from three years previously),18 the elimination of clear public interest requirements such as local public affairs programming,19 and the relaxation of ownership rules, including the requirement of local participation in management.
Color me unsurprised. As is typical, whenever a liberal is unhappy about something, it must be because government regulations aren’t tight enough.
Yet, what is truly fascinating is that one of the “problems” concerning under-regulation of this industry was deliciously implemented during the – wait for it – Clinton years:
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 removed the national limit on the number of radio stations that one company could own. This resulted in the wave of consolidation that carried Clear Channel from 40 stations to over 1,200, and many other conglomerates to several hundred stations apiece.
The economics of radio station ownership changed in this period as a result of consolidation. Large, non-local owners aired syndicated programming on a wider scale across their national holdings. Advertising on local stations was marketed and sold by national firms, undermining the ability of local owners to compete. Many sold their stations. The number of locally-owned, minority-owned, and female-owned stations was constrained—and the very different programming decisions these owners make were less visible in the market.
In short, the removal of ownership limits created artificial economies of scale for syndicated programming (dominated by conservative talk). Because of the size of corporate radio holdings, this business model was profitable even if localism declined and local tastes and needs were not suitably matched.
Isn’t that marvelous? So, on the one hand, these folks – most of them members of the Clinton administration – believe that the “problem” of conservative domination over the airwaves was signed into law by – wait for it! – their previous boss, likely with some of their blessings at the time.
Yet, eleven years later, recognizing that this didn’t work out well for them, they want to enact new laws to fix the problem they created.
Isn’t that special?
Without further ado, here are their recommendations:
- National radio ownership by any one entity should not exceed 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM broadcast stations.
- In terms of local ownership, no one entity should control more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market, or specifi cally, more than:
- Four commercial stations in large markets (a radio market with 45 or more commercial radio stations).
- Three stations in mid-markets (between 30 and 44 total commercial radio stations).
- Two stations in smaller markets (between 15 and 29 total commercial radio stations).
- One station in the smallest markets (14 or fewer total commercial radio stations).
We recommend the following steps the FCC should take to ensure local needs are being met:
- Provide a license to radio broadcasters for a term no longer than three years.
- Require radio broadcast licensees to regularly show that they are operating on behalf of the public interest and provide public documentation and viewing of how they are meeting these obligations.
- Demand that the radio broadcast licensee announce when its license is about to expire and demonstrate how the public can participate in the process to determine whether the licenseshould be extended. In addition, the FCC should be required to maintain a website to conduct on-line discussions and facilitate interaction with the public about licensee conduct.
And finally (fasten your seatbelts!):
Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting
If commercial radio broadcasters are unwilling to abide by these regulatory standards or the FCC is unable to effectively regulate in the public interest, a spectrum use fee should be levied on owners to directly support local, regional, and national public broadcasting.
A fee based on a sliding scale (1 percent for small markets, 5 percent for the largest markets) would be distributed directly to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with clear mandates to support local news and public affairs programming and to cover controversial and political issues in a fair and balanced manner.
We estimate that such a fee would net between $100 million and $250 million and would not overly burden commercial radio broadcasters.
As you might imagine, the first set of recommendations are a total perversion of the free-market system.
Yet, what’s potentially more amusing about all this is the final category concerning violators paying a fine to support public broadcasting.
Think about it: if the plan is to get more liberal points of view on the airwaves, and these folks are looking to get more money to public broadcasting, aren’t they basically admitting that PBS is INDEED a disseminator of liberal opinions?
Somehow they missed this delicious irony…or did they?
Of course, if a left-leaning group composed largely of Clintonistas are willing to admit the liberal bias at PBS, maybe the discussion should be whether or not government funding to this organization should be immediately halted.
Barring that, it seems logical given this group’s concern for balance in media that ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek, the Associated Press, Reuters et al should have to pay moneys to Fox News, the Washington Times, the National Review, and the Weekly Standard to compensate for liberal bias in print and on television.
Now that’s a cockamamie scheme I might be able to get behind.