Monday, February 16, 2009

How Fair is That?

You can make a good case for bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, the FCC policy that ensured that there was an equal airing of political points of view on broadcast stations, but I suppose the best reason for talking about bringing it back is that is drives right-wingers crazy.

Frankly, the Fairness Doctrine is a two-edged sword, and when it comes to something like mandating a reasonable amount of balance of points of view on the airwaves, I’m a believer in the survival of the fittest. If right-wingers have taken over AM radio, so be it; it’s a bit of poetic justice to relegate conservative talk shows to the radio band that reached its technological zenith in the 1920’s. (Here in Miami, the only thing on AM radio is talk in three different languages on everything from sports to Jesus, along with the occasional bleed-over from Radio Havana if the wind is right.) There are so many outlets for other points of view now that reach more people than radio anyway, including this one: the internet. Where the righties have AM radio, the progressives and everybody else have made as much if not more headway via the web. If the conservatives can point to their takeover of Congress in 1994 as the epitome of talk radio’s influence via Rush Limbaugh, the election of 2008 was the same for the web.

Would the resurrection of the Fairness Doctrine mean that websites and bloggers would have to give equal time to other points of view? Actually, most bloggers — at least on the progressive side — do offer room for opposing points of view in their comments. (Based on my own experience, right-wing blogs seem to be more prone to stricter moderation — i.e. banning contrary commenters — than progressive blogs.) And since the internet is basically unlimited, there is always room for someone else to start their own blog or website. All it takes is a computer and internet access. Getting as much attention as a talker on the radio is another matter, but that’s part of the charm of the free market.

But back to the original point; just talking about the Fairness Doctrine gives righties conniption fits. They’re so afraid of contrary opinions or being challenged on their dogma that they’re willing, without a shred of irony, to scream about censorship. That alone is good enough for me.