Sunday, February 22, 2009

Now comes the editorial on Fairness Doctrine

As I predicted, a couple of stories and then an editorial. The Blade's standard operating procedure when they get stuck on an issue is probably well-known to most by now, but that doesn't stop them.

The issue de jour is the so-called 'Fairness Doctrine.' You see, unlike just about every other medium, conservatives dominate talk radio. The Blade (and many liberals) think it's because of some sort of concerted effort to keep liberals off the air. The reality, despite their protestations to the contrary, has to do with profit. Radio stations are for profit corporations and if it sells, or makes the owners money, it gets on the air.

Liberal talk radio just isn't profitable - at least not yet. There are some areas, like Portland and Los Angeles, where liberal talk show hosts are successful. That fact alone proves the point about profitability and completely defeats The Blade's argument, but never let logic interfere with your editorial perspective.

Most of the public isn't really in support of a 'Fairness Doctrine' so the problem is how to present regulation of free speech in a way that will garner the support needed to shove it through. I know - we won't say we're trying to control what YOU say - just trying to provide an opportunity for others to say what they want, as well! Voila! Enter 'balance' as the prevalent term, closely followed by 'local control' and 'public good.'

Radio frequencies and their use are controlled by the government under a licensing scheme. Once government 'owns' something on behalf of the public, it controls it and gets to dictate how it is used. Could you imagine the outrage if such licensing laws were directed at public newspapers? Of course, that would never happen - nor should it. But before you can dictate content, you have to establish control - and that's just what we've got with radio. And then we're back to the argument about 'who' gets to make the decisions.

So government, by fiat, declares something to be 'publicly owned' and then begins regulating its use.

(Side note: I'm sure there's a separate post on public versus private ownership and the push by many to eliminate private property rights - but it will have to wait for another day.)

By claiming that they have to ensure certain rights on behalf of the public, they gain control over not only the method of speech, but also the content. I guess we've forgotten that government doesn't grant us our rights, but is supposed to protect them - and regulating what people can say or telling them that their opinions have to be 'balanced' with opposing ones is certainly not protecting a right to free speech.

This concept then leads us into the situation where you may have a right to speak, but I don't have to listen. Certainly liberals have the OPPORTUNITY to be on the air - Bill Press and Stephanie Miller can be heard on WNWT-AM 1520. So, if liberal talk radio is present in Toledo, what's the problem?

Well, as with most liberals, it's not about ensuring equal opportunity. It's all about ensuring equal OUTCOME. While Press and Miller are on the air, they're not the dominate voice in the Toledo market. And since this area elects primarily Democrats, it must mean that Toledoans are victims of evil conservatives, so those evil conservatives must be restricted and/or stopped.

Never mind that Press and Miller haven't been on the air anywhere near as long as others and are just beginning to develop their audience and advertisers - something WSPD has been doing for decades. Never mind that their ratings are not very high. If they're not doing well, it cannot be because of anything they, themselves, are doing. It must be because WSPD is too big... or isn't being 'fair'... or isn't 'balanced'... or isn't locally owned... or any number of excuses that are used to protect those who, through their own failings, don't succeed in an open market.

Of course, that brings up the so-called liberal logic - the market isn't 'open' if someone else controls it, therefore government must control it in order to make it 'balanced' or 'fair' or 'open.' But that argument, too, rejects reality in that a government-regulated market is, by the very act of government regulation, not open. So if a semi-regulated market doesn't ensure our side with the success we want, it must be because there isn't enough regulation, so let's add more! By the time government finishes with its regulations to create 'balance' of outcomes, it completely controls everything and our free speech rights are dead.

So, having failed, and rightly so, when it comes to regulating the content of talk radio, they're taking a new approach - regulate the owners. That 'evil' Clear Channel owns soooo many radio stations and all they feature are - gasp! - conservatives. We must regulate them more if we're going to ensure the public has access to our perspective - after all, government must ensure the 'public trust.'

It is this concentration of ownership that is really at the center of the problem. He who controls the broadcast licenses controls the content of what goes out over the air, and any notion of a "public trust" be damned.

What could be more characteristic of a totalitarian state than limiting information to a narrow range of options? Democracy's very survival depends on a public that is well-informed, sometimes whether they wish to be or not.

(Of course, this statement, "He who controls the broadcast licenses controls the content of what goes out over the air, and any notion of a "public trust" be damned." applies to government as well, but I guess to The Blade editors, that's not really a problem. Additionally, they seem to have no issue whatsoever with other media 'limiting information to a narrow range of options,' only talk radio. Here's a thought: if a narrow range of options is to be avoided, how about if they start with their own paper???)

Having a private company decide what to broadcast does not lead to a "totalitarian state" which is defined:

1. of or pertaining to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life.
2. exercising control over the freedom, will, or thought of others; authoritarian; autocratic.

In fact, if government gets to decide what goes out over the airwaves, that is, indeed, exactly what The Blade is so afraid of. But again, let's not let facts and logic get in the way of our editorial...

And let me emphasize their last point: the public has to be informed of liberal ideas "whether they wish to be or not." If you don't want to listen to our liberal perspectives, we must force you to hear us. Talk about totalitarian!

Information is certainly not limited in today's world. With newspapers, television (don't forget the massive spending of our limited tax dollars to ensure that everyone will get the new digital signal mandated by government, as if watching TV is some sort of 'right'), radio, Internet, and magazines, people have access to more information than they know what to do with. Radio is the one place left that isn't dominated by liberal opinions. And our local Blade is just the closest example of how the liberal perspective permeates not only their editorial pages - where is certainly belongs - but their 'news' stories as well.

Talk radio is the equivalent of a newspaper's editorial pages. It is the opinion of author/speaker and, as opinion, doesn't require an 'opposing view.' Callers to talk radio are the equivalent to writers of letters to the editor.

Just like The Blade, which has rules about their letters to editor, talk shows have rules about callers. The Blade requires a real name and address and verifies you are the author. Callers to Eye On Toledo (and WSPD in general) can remain anonymous. Letter writers are limited in the number of words they can use. Callers are limited only to time in terms of breaks and how long they can stay on the line. Interesting calls have often be carried over the breaks in order to continue the discussion.

Unlike The Blade which gets to see the entire content of your letter prior to publishing, callers can tell us they're going to talk about one thing and then change the subject. While that might end up in them being let go, it's after the fact - not prior restraint.

Once you've written your letter to editor, there is no assurance it will be printed. Unless there's an unusually high volume of callers, you're pretty much assured of getting on the air on WSPD if you've got the time to wait on the line.

Furthermore, unlike the one-way action in which a paper prints an editorial and then you submit a letter to the editor, talk radio is a discussion. The caller makes a point, I respond. I ask a question, the caller responds. The back and forth of caller and then host gives the listener a more in-depth understanding of both sides of the issue and often leads to points or perspectives not previously mentioned.

How is that not a good thing - and better than the lack of interaction you get from a newspaper? Should a newspaper be mandated to publish all letters to the editor? Or is it okay for them to pick and choose what opinions will be heard?

(Side note: Today's Letters to the Editor section includes one that says "Progressives are, by definition, more open-minded than conservatives" and 'want to expand their knowledge.' Really? If that's the case, then why are they so insistent that the last - and only - vestige of conservative opinion be eliminated???)

In the end, The Blade calls for hearings - as if Congress doesn't have more important issues like, say, trillions of dollars of debt to address:

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.

See - there's that totalitarian mandate again: 'the range of opinions you need so you can figure out where you stand on issues' ... because without the government mandating what opinions you NEED, you might actually form an opinion all on your own and we certainly can't have that.

Other perspectives:

Tim Higgins has an interesting take on the editorial The Blade's push for 'balance."

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

The Un-Fairness Doctrine

Toledo Blade Resorts To Cry Baby Censorship As It Ignores Its Own Bias

6 comments:

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

Perhaps with the Blade, it is as simple as the concept that any sound other than the echo of their own humble opinion is one that should be silenced.

Roman said...

It is too bad that the Toledo Blade, one of the nations newspapers, is so predictable. Something in the editorial that stood out to me was almost a disclaimer: "anyone can start a newspaper", but a federal license is needed to have a radio station, after this was stated, the writer claims that "talk radio" does not serve the public, and should be "regulated" (censored) by the government. One of the biggest reasons that talk shows do so well is they fill a huge void. Anyone with more than a functioning brain stem knows the bias that the dinosaur media puts out as news. As Rush Limbaugh states from time to time: "I am balance".

Jay Ott said...

Maggie,

Would I be negative if I pointed out that you are being too positive about the Blade's series of "articles" about the "Fairness Doctrine" for the past three Sundays?

What I mean is that: last week you wrote, "Blade pushes fairness doctrine". Two weeks ago your headline about the Blade article was "evil conservative talk radio", but today it's "now comes the editorial on Fairness Doctrine."

It seems to me that the Blade's entire series has been one long, continous editorial. Just because two of them were on the front page doesn't mean they were not editorials. Nor does it mean that just because today's installment was included in the editorial section, that the series hasn't been an editorial for the past three weeks which can be easily demonstrated.

Maggie Thurber said...

Jay, but of course you are correct...

However, considering that we all know this, sometimes stating the obvious is overkill...

:)

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

I'm with Jay on this one. Distinguishing between news and opinion in The Blade is becoming far too difficult for the likes of me.

Jay Ott said...

Maggie,

LMAO! ;-p

I apologize for the "overkill" in restating the obvious. I've learned not to take anything for granted or leave anything to chance.

These days, in our post-modern and relativistic society, where "truth" is no longer seen as discoverable or based on one's preference (respectively)people believe all sorts of things, regardless of facts and evidence.

Our mayor, aka the big "P", even goes so far as to think that "facts take sides"--much to my chagrin.

I always thought, perhaps wrongly that they were out there to be discovered, not subjectively meditated upon while using a $9,999.99 shower stall.

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