Sunday, June 24, 2007


All empires, benevolent or malevolent, eventually collapse. Look at Rome, the Ottoman -- even Monkey Wards. Sprawling empires, all, now reduced to footstool status.

There are always warning signs. Romulus knew that Odoacer was coming for him. Montgomery Ward knew all about suburbia and the rise of the malls. But gargantuans are slow to turn, clumsy to maneuver.

Opinion-driven media has been an empire for several years. Bolstered by the death of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, the opinionators -- overwhelmingly conservative -- have amassed the kind of power and influence that Charles Coughlin used to pray and bray for.

Cable news networks rely on opinion (and its ill-mannered cousin, invective) to create "good TV." Newspaper chains like Gannett are putting the emphasis on "community conversation," giving more column inches to conjecture.

But talk radio is clearly King of the Opinion Empire. Politicians genuflect and pucker. Last week, Sen. Trent Lott grumbled at the defeat of immigration legislation and said "talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."

Sunday saw Lott in full backpeddle:
One of the mistakes that we have made many times on legislation is it's introduced, it comes out of committee, we bring it to the floor. We never bother to explain what we're trying to do and what is in it.

I think that was the mistake that was made with immigration. Talk radio defined it without us explaining that there were reasons for it and the good things that were in it.

So the onus is not on them, it's on us to do a better job of communicating what we're trying to do.

And I just want to make — you know, look, I've been defended by talk radio many times and I will support their right to tell their side of the story, right, left or the middle, forever.
Lott knows there's very little left-wing (or middle) content on talk radio. Anyone with a clue and a radio knows it's true.

Apparently clueless: The Center for American Progress, "a progressive think-tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action."

The center issued a report (.pdf file) late last week about talk radio. You will be amazed that the center is amazed to learn that talk radio is big -- and overwhelmingly conservative:
•91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.

•Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk -- 10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.

•Through more than 1,700 stations across the nation, the combined news/talk format is estimated to reach more than 50 million listeners each week.
These are the warning signs for the Opinion Empire. Newspapers are trying to imitate them. Politicians are questioning their power. And the clueless have finally gotten a clue. They realize that radio stations are supposed to "serve the public interest," a standard that can't be squared with flat partisanship and contempt for those with opposing viewpoints.

The Opinion Empire has never been more popular. Popularity breeds contempt.


MoJoe said...

What bugs me about the whole thing is that some are not so quick to realize when a broadcast is opinion-oriented. Many of the broadcasters are responsible for this, because they portray themselves as a source for news. Rush and O'Reilly are notorious for this; I'm sure that leftist broadcasters are too, but I haven't heard any to verify this.

It's kind of sad how conservatives' most beloved form of entertainment is to listen to someone reaffirm their values. Explains their lack of imagination.

My two cents: I don't think the Fairness Doctrine will fix this. Though I do favor some note reminding listeners/viewers of opinion content (similar to "I'm candidate X and I approve of this message), free speech is free speech.

Branson Missouri said...

Mr. Davis

Thank you for the fascinating post. I've thought about this topic quite a bit and couldn't have elaborated on it any more eloquently. I've always viewed you as an advocate of the politically left persuasion. Does the Internet itself have some kind of polarization of its own?

Anonymous said...

Hey, maybe Air America can help to balance the marketplace by attracting all of the people who want mor libera...what? Huh? Oh, never mind...

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like government-approved talk-radio content, and I don't like the sound of that. Why dangle that kind of power in front of the eyes of politicians? IMO, that's just asking for trouble.

Besides, who gets to hold the stopwatch and clipboards? FCC employees? Whose template will they use? Who gives the marching orders? Will it be divvied up by minutes, or hours?

Finally, what about mission creep? You know... some creep makes it his/her mission to expand an existing power, and some lunkhead will decide podcasts and satellite radio are "public airwaves".

Power corrupts. Can we truly trust Dems to not abuse it anymore than we can trust Repubs to not abuse it? Not just no, but hell no, says I.

Anonymous said...

Most talk radio hosts spend most of their time telling their audience that half the population, (actually more than 50%) you know, those liberals,
Congressional Democrats, Rinos, activist judges and others, are traitors and scum. They take glee in announcing or generating negatives about those who are in or left of center. The danger is that after years of Rush, Laura, Sean, Savage and locals like Vincent David jerkoff, their listeners begin to hate their friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors who happen think differently. These hosts constantly seek to divide us as a nation, as a people. Divided We Fall folks.

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from "President Andrew Shepherd" in Rob Reiner's "The American President"
America is advanced citizenship.
You gotta want it bad,'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's
see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free, then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest." Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.
Works on both sides.
Art Morris

Anonymous said...

Each and everyone of you "progressives" should read Article I of the Bill of Rights.

If you want your voice heard, then call into these talk shows and give em hell. You can't expect to run to the Government like a kid does his parents hoping for another liberal sidestep to the Constitution. In other words, PARTICIPATE.

Yes, conservatives have talk radio. But "progressives" have Network TV, Newspapers, Blogs (like this one), and many Cable channels.

If anyone should be pushing for a Fairness Doctrine it should be Republicans. But we'd rather compete in the marketplace. You should too.

Remember, we have "Freedom of Speech" in this country and John Podesta's Center for American Progress won't take that away.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind all of the conservative talk radio if it weren't for the fact that it's all opinion presented as fact.

All of the radio hosts mentioned here argue their point endlessly and never acknowledge that most of that is just their opinion. "Liberals are scum." not "I believe that liberals are scum." It makes a difference to the listening audience.

And while I'm talking about name calling....

I don't agree with a lot that these hosts have to say. I do think that they can make a good point on some things. I would have an easier time taking them seriously if they didn't resort to name calling, insulting and basic playground behavior.

Anonymous said...

conservatives have talk radio. But "progressives" have Network TV, Newspapers,...

I think anon@9:56 has had just a wee bit too much of the right-wing kool-aid.

Anonymous said...

Me? Kool-Aid, you're out of your head. If you don't think that the Liberal mindset isn't in the mainstream press, then you probably think this Blog is part of that vast rightwing conspiracy Hillary fears.

But in true Liberal fashion, facts don't enter into the debate.

Anonymous said...

"in true Liberal fashion, facts don't enter into the debate."

I think you've got it backwards, Kool-Aid boy.

It's that whole "reality-based community" thing. Do journalists (not of the Faux News variety) trend to the left? Based on my experience, yes. That's unsurprising when you consider these folks spend their 9 to 5 asking questions and educating themselves on the facts. Same reason folks trend liberal the more educated they are, or conservatives dominate the rich (read greedy) and/or dumb crowd.

Blowhards like Hannity, O'Reilly or Rush may be able to make a living as close-minded liars, but that shit don't fly very far in the real world of news.

Now, I don't expect any of that convinced you of the error of your ways (you wouldn't be a real conservative if it did), so go turn on Rush and forget reality ever intruded on your comfortable little world.

Anonymous said...

So, facts be damned. Just because you don't like conservative talk radio you and your "progressive" friends want to pull a Hugo Chavez and silence them.

If you want "Fairness" in your "Doctrine" then expand the measure to include NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune and on and on. Let's make it fair.

You liberal pricks will uphold someone's right to burn the American flag as a "symbol" of free speech, but you grab the old Sharpie and go after the Bill of Rights when someone you don't agree with speaks out.

Now, stay in your world and don't speak to me again.

Anonymous said...

"Now, stay in your world and don't speak to me again."

Uh, anon@11:23, didn't you come by here?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:23/Asshole from earlier.

I realize you probably couldn't function without going off on faceless "liberal pricks" and Hugo Chavez, but you're just illustrating the point -- in fact, you'd make a pretty good radio host with your ability to ignore the facts and change the subject.

Here's the point: I don't give two right-wing nut bags about the Fairness Doctrine. Faux News, O'Reilly, etc. can shovel whatever crap they want.

But stop acting like it's something other than opinion. And stop claiming "liberal bias" whenever reality pokes a hole in your Happy Hannity world.

Anonymous said...

Whatever you call it Anon, IT'S STILL FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Those are the facts, pal.

Anonymous said...

I think this thread has caught a bad case of VD(J).

Anonymous said...

Let Diane Feinstein suggest that blogs should be subject to the FD, and then tell us if it's a good idea.

Larry Burkum said...

The Fairness Doctrine was specifically limited to BROADCAST stations...those licensed to use the PUBLIC airwaves "in the public interest, convenience and necessity." The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on more than one occassion that the publicly-owned airwaves, due to scarcity, do not deserve the same First Amendment protection as other forms of media. Thus blogs and cable television, like print media, are not regulated under current federal law as are BROADCAST stations.

The problem is not that talk radio is largely consevative. It is that the owners of the stations, the license holders, present a barrier to entry for any progressive talk. The Fairness Doctrine did not, and would not, prohibit any conservative speech. It would, rather, require the license holders to provide alternative points of view. Nothing in the doctrine specified time limits.

Conservatives on this blog really ought to read the Fairness Doctrine rather than mindlessly repeating the false talking points of conservative talk radio, and thus illustrating the problem with license holders failing to operate in the public interest.

Anonymous said...

doclarry, I operated broadcast stations under the "Fairness Doctrine" and yes, it offered the opportunity of equal time for opposing views, even radio station editorials. But what it will do is make station owners and managers decide NOT to air the programs at all because of the government b.s. they'll be forced to deal with. The reason station owners don't air liberal talk shows is because they won't make them any money. In the 1990's KWTO used to air Alan Colmes; he aired immediatley following Rush. Didn't survive because nobody listened to it. Air America went bankrupt because no one listened, or should I say, not enough people would listen and advertisers would not buy time on the program. It even goes beyond the ownership argument. People don't want to hear what the left has to say...even in bigger markets. If they did Al Franken would still have a job.

But the airwaves are not owned by the Government. It's evolved into that way of thinking because of the regulations slapped on the industry by the FCC. The FCC was given birth to handle and control the great number of stations that were coming on line in the 1920's. It was more a matter of frequency controls and overlapping signals. The FCC did not come about to monitor and regulate speech, racial quotas or ownership issues.

So, I guess I'm a conservative that had to deal with the first Fairness Doctrine. I'm not repeating false talking points. And as for having to operate under the public intrest? Come on, you sound like Ward Cleaver. Public Service requirements, Community Assertainment surveys...all that went out the window years ago.

Anonymous said...

Amen, anon 9:33. Thank you for providing doclarry and others with the "real world" view, not simply the bright platitudes of academia. We'd all be better off if exposed to a range of viewpoints. Unfortunately, the theory of the Fairness Doctrine runs headlong into the wall of free enterprise and the laws of supply and demand.

Anonymous said...

"...stop acting like it's something other than opinion. And stop claiming "liberal bias" whenever reality pokes a hole in your Happy Hannity world."

Here, here Anon 3:42! I couldn't have said it better myself.

You know, I listen to Hannity nearly every weekday for about 30 minutes on my way to work. He's a broken record. Same opinions, posed as fact, everyday.

On the other side of the coin, he has been pretty critical of the Republican party as of late. Though, how that plays out over the course of the whole show I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...


You say that now, but this isn't then. The old FD was a long time ago; gov't is a lot bigger and meaner now. And it's laden with bureaucrats, busybodies, nanny-staters and fools with power and taxpayer money at their fingertips.

Therefore, it would not be the same as the good ol' days. The NEW Doctrine would have time limits, paperwork, huge fines, and government employees with stopwatches deciding what is "liberal" and what is not.

BTW... how would moderate hosts or callers be treated? Would they be considered "50/50 time", applicable to both ledgers?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to add public schools to the list of broken record topics. Yea, these talk shows are great uniters.

Anonymous said...

7:34 AM,

Does this mean you're in favor of government-regulated broadcast opinion?

Slippery slope, IMO.