Saturday, June 30, 2007

Walberg Opposes the Fairness Doctrine

Here's the latest news item from Tim Walberg's House website:
Washington, Jun 28 - U.S. Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI) today will speak at a press conference to discuss an amendment to the Financial Services Appropriations bill that would prohibit funds in the bill from being used by the Federal Communications Commission to impose the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters.

Congressman Walberg is also an original co-sponsor of the Broadcasters Freedom Act, legislation introduced by Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN), which would prevent reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine.
Walberg doesn't like the Fairness Doctrine. Interesting. Let's take a closer look...

The Fairness Doctrine called for broadcast media to air both (or all) sides of controversial issues when discussing them, in an effort to better inform the public. In addition, subjects of personal attacks were to be notified within a week of that attack taking place and be given equal time to respond on air. A similar rule existed for political editorials and endorsements.

After a series of court cases and some criticism, the Federal Communications Commission began to phase out the doctrine in the mid-1980s. By 2000, the corollary rules about personal attacks and editorials were the last pieces that remained, and the FCC unceremoniously decided to stop enforcing those rules.

So did the Fairness Doctrine dampen free speech, as critics claimed? Well, yes, a little. Does that mean it was unconstitutional? No.

From (a great resource for Supreme Court rulings), here's the result of the 1969 case Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC.
In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the fairness doctrine was consistent with the First Amendment. Writing for the Court, Justice White argued that spectrum scarcity made it "idle to posit an unabridgeable First Amendment right to broadcast comparable to the right of every individual to speak, write, or publish." The Court held that the FCC's fairness doctrine regulations enhanced rather than infringed the freedoms of speech protected under the First Amendment. With respect to the regulation of personal attacks made in the context of public issue debates, the FCC's requirement that the subject of the attack be provided with a tape, transcript, or broadcast summary, as well as an opportunity to respond without having to prove an inability to pay for the "air-time," insured a balanced and open discussion of contested issues. The requirement that political editorializing be presented for and against both sides of the debated issues also contributed to the balanced discussion of public concerns.
In other words, since no one "owns" the electromagnetic spectrum (or the radio-wave portion of it), it is a public commodity that the federal government can regulate. Since it can regulate it, equal time for opposing opinions on controversial issues is in the public interest, and the doctrine was upheld. Later rulings included reservations about the Fairness Doctrine and its application, but the concept as a whole still stands. It's just no longer enforced by the FCC.

That's the history. So does Tim Walberg, constitutional scholar, oppose reinstating the Fairness Doctrine on First Amendment grounds? No.

Here's what Congressman Walberg said:
“We are discussing whether or not we should reinstate a piece of legislation entitled the Fairness Doctrine. Ironically enough, the year the Fairness Doctrine was originally introduced, 1949, President Truman also introduced legislation you may be familiar with: the Fair Deal.

“Today, I am asking for a fair deal for American talk radio programs and their millions of bi-partisan listeners. The broadcast world has changed tremendously since 1949.

“In today’s world where consumers watch HDTV, listen to HD Radio and talk on iPhones, the number of broadcast outlets available to the general public is much, much greater than back in 1949.

“With the market of political ideas flourishing not only on the radio, but also on the Internet, on TV and in print, there is no need for government control of public airwaves.

“Do we really want the FCC to conduct investigations and issue warnings to radio talk show hosts nationwide who simply discuss the important issues of our time?

“The Constitution says “freedom of speech,” not “freedom of government approved fair speech in rationed amounts.”

“Talk radio is an asset to our nation because it encourages strong and healthy debate about public policy.

“The Broadcasters Freedom Act would ensure these debates continue, and I am proud to support this legislation so that millions of American radio listeners are given a fair deal.”
The short version? It might hurt talk radio, so he doesn't like it. Now why would Walberg be interested in protecting talk radio? Could it have something to do with Chris Simmons-- Walberg employee and radio host on WBCK? Or, perhaps, it would hurt this fellow:

If the Fairness Doctrine were being enforced, the Rush Limbaughs of the world, who propagate so much hatred on behalf of the conservative movement, might feel pressure to be a little more "fair and balanced."

In fact, let's focus on talk radio. Here's Tim Walberg's primary argument:
With the market of political ideas flourishing not only on the radio, but also on the Internet, on TV and in print, there is no need for government control of public airwaves.
There is a hint of truth to this. The Internet, as this blog shows, offers a phenomenal opportunity for political discussion and partisanship. But broadcast media-- especially talk radio-- still has a much wider audience. After all, it's easier to tune in to WJR on your way to work than it is to take time out of your evening to read Michigan Liberal.

So let's look at talk radio, because that's what Tim Walberg focused on. It's a product of the free market, flourishing in the decades since the death of the Fairness Doctrine. Walberg said:
Talk radio is an asset to our nation because it encourages strong and healthy debate about public policy.
So it must be balanced because market forces, right? Healthy debate of public policy, indeed, would require both sides to be presented, right?

Not quite. The Center for American Progress recently released a report (previously mentioned at the blog Conservative Media) looking at the five major companies that broadcast the vast majority of commercial talk radio.

But wait! Congressman Walberg said:

In today’s world where consumers watch HDTV, listen to HD Radio and talk on iPhones, the number of broadcast outlets available to the general public is much, much greater than back in 1949.
(Emphasis added.)

Well, Congressman, not in radio. Five companies-- Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Citadel, Cumulus, and Salem-- own most of the radio stations you might be listening to. Consolidation following the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has allowed an individual broadcasting corporation like Clear Channel to own as many as seven stations in a single market. So much for competition.

So what did the Center for American Progress find? You should read the whole report yourself, but these bar graphs pretty much sum up the current state of American talk radio.

So. The impression I'm getting is that, without a shadow of a doubt, talk radio is incredibly conservative. Now, as that Center for American Progress report explains, this isn't entirely because of the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, but there's no doubt that if the Fairness Doctrine were in place, there would have to be some major changes made.

Not that any of this ought to surprise anyone. I just thought I'd clearly outline the reasons Tim Walberg has for stepping up and fighting the Fairness Doctrine on behalf of talk radio. His employee/right-wing radio host Chris Simmons must appreciate it (and his station, by the way, is owned by Clear Channel Communications).

Oh, and that $1,000 that Clear Channel contributed to Walberg last fall must have been helpful, too. But it's not like campaign bribes-- er, contributions-- would ever affect the legislation he supports.

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For talk radio that actually reflects the makeup of our community, check out WILS 1320 AM. Jack Ebling has been doing a great job for several months. He's the guy whose interview with Walberg on Iraq safety turned Tim into a national joke.

Ebling is now paired with a new morning guy, Walt Sorg, whose background includes working for Gov. Blanchard and House Dems.

Most of the station's shows are the usual right-wing national gasbags, but the local program is definitely progressive.

And even better, the two of them have lived in this area for decades. They know the community inside-out, unlike the transients that run the State Journal or gab on the Citadel station.

Ebling is on 5-7pm, Sorg 6-9am. Yesterday the two of them worked together all morning.
Something apparently escapes most people when they get into this debate...Conservative talk radio is popular because, PEOPLE LISTEN TO IT! The FREE market has supported the format because they were sick of the one-sided liberal bias of the traditional media (a bias that is no longer arguable since many of the people involved in traditional media have admitted the bias exists, and recent polls show the political leaning of the media "elite" to be overwhelmingly liberal). It wouldn't be such a force if they weren't saying what a lot of people were hungering to hear...THEIR SIDE. Another point missing from this discussion...the extremely large audience of NPR, a liberal group to be sure.
Great post. The issue is liberal talk radio will be as popular as conservative talk radio when it’s given a chance. That has been proved when people like Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz are beating people like sean haity and rush blowhard. But liberal talk is being pulled off the air despite good ratings that were continuing to improve. How can that be the free market, and I don’t have to type in all caps to make my point.

To the guy who did not – and with that trash I don’t blame him – give his name the “traditional media” is not liberal. Like radio, a few mega corporations own all of the media outlets.

NPR is nonpartisan.
I don't view NPR as liberal. It has some of the most informative talk I've heard and they take pains to be fair. They also have access to behind-the-scenes people in Washington that have a completely different view than whats often reported in mainstream media. Some I agree with, some I don't.

What I don't like about NPR is they don't challenge people when they utter something stupid. Unlike Rush, Sean and others, they don't humiliate people with bad ideas and poor thought processes.
Timothy David Corts is Member of Michigan Militia since 1994 and was personnally sponcered to his higher level post by his best friend Timothy McViegh.
Tim Corts helped Tim McViegh plan and execute the April 19th 1995 bombing of the Mura Federal Building in Oklahoma City Oklahoma.
Tim Corts gave refuge to Timothy McViegh by letting Timothy McViegh stay at his house at 614 East Ganson St. in Jackson Michigan from October 1994 thru the middle of January 1995.
Tim Corts currently lives on Olcott Lake in Jackson Michigan and he currently works for (SMI) Syncronous Manufacturing Inc. on Page Ave. in Michigan Center in Jackson County Michigan.
SMI is part of Thorrez Industries in Jackson Michigan.
Complete 1994 & 1995 Michigan Militia Membership Roster to be published soon. Check your local news stand.

Originally reported to Agent LaPinski of the Jackson Michigan FBI Office in October 1994.
That right folks. The government knew about the attact long in advance.
I know this for a fact as that I volunteered to wear a wire for Agent LaPinski of the FBI starting in October of 1994.

The City Councilmen who was a Member was my brother Clark Edward Thulin.

Why have they attempted to cover these facts up?

Why blame one man when so many were in fact responcible.

* Was it because 7 Jackson Judges were Members?
* Was it because the Sheriff was a Member?
* Was it because 13 Sheriff Deputies were Members?
* Was it because 6 City Police were Members?
* Was it because 1 City Councilmen was a Member?
* Was it because the Prosecutor was a Member?
* Was it because a local Bail Bondsman was a Member?
* Was it because they all voted to go ahead with the
* Was it because those responcible are concidered to
high and mighty and above the Law to be convicted?
* Was it because they did not want the embarassment?
* Was it ALL of the ABOVE.
Conservatives have been attacking the Center for American Progress report even though it doesn't advocate a Fairness Doctrine. It mainly asks for more local ownership and putting programming decisions for local stations "closer to the ground" in local communities. Does that mean that being a conservative requires one to hate localism and love corporate radio?
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