Where Art Thou, Liberal Talk Radio?

One of the side conversations in the comments to my “Media Bias” post concerned the possible resuscitation of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” which Sen. Diane Feinstein floated on FOXNews Sunday:

WALLACE: So would you revive the fairness doctrine?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I’m looking at it, as a matter of fact, Chris, because I think there ought to be an opportunity to present the other side. And unfortunately, talk radio is overwhelmingly one way.
WALLACE: But the argument would be it’s the marketplace, and if liberals want to put on their own talk radio, they can put it on. At this point, they don’t seem to be able to find much of a market.
FEINSTEIN: Well, apparently, there have been problems. It is growing. But I do believe in fairness. I remember when there was a fairness doctrine, and I think there was much more serious correct reporting to people.

Of course, the counter-argument is that–what is really going on–is that liberals don’t like talk radio because they can’t make it work for them. Just ask Jim Hightower or Mario Cuomo or, most recently, Air America: all failed to become the Left’s version of Rush Limbaugh. Heck, Air America couldn’t even make it in deep-blue Rhode Island!
I don’t know why conservatives do better at talk radio. And I don’t know why liberals do better at comedy, but they do. Witness Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. It’s probably a deeper issue than business models or who controls what. Maybe it’s a combination of temperament and style. Whatever it is, liberals will drive themselves crazy if they think they will be able to get total media saturation across the entire spectrum. Isn’t 90% good enough?

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Tom W
Tom W
17 years ago

>>and I think there was much more serious correct reporting to people.
Big Brother couldn’t have said it any better.

17 years ago

A little nostalgia . . .
Back in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, Boston talk host Jerry Williams (who basically created the call-in format) was considered a liberal. He was pro-civil rights, anti-Vietnam, anti-Nixon, and immensely popular. For part of that time he was on WBZ, whose clear channel signal covered about the eastern 1/3 of the US.
Then, in the mid-80s, Jerry picked up the baton of the local tax revolt movement, and he turned anti-government, almost conservative. This was at the same time that conservatives began to dominate talk radio. He continued to be successful, although I think age and time did ultimately catch up to him (he passed away a couple of years ago).
Why did Williams succeed as a liberal in the early part of his career and as a kind of conservative in later years?
I don’t have any idea, but I do believe that he was a very smart radio guy, and he must have been able to read the wind and get out ahead of it. Too bad he’s not around to answer the question . . .

17 years ago

I’ll acknowledge I don’t know the detail of the “The ‘Fairness Doctrine”, but is she actually saying that a law which regulates that one side of an issue get presented as much as the other side – that this should apply to politically based talk radio?
In other words, entertainment should be ‘fair and balanced’? This is the response when talk radio appears to have persuaded people in the social and political arena!!!
What next? Does every theater that shows a Michael Moore movie also have to show a movie representing ‘the other side’? Does NPR have an obligation to be fair and balanced on issues? Do newspaper editorial sections also have that obligation?
This is the epitome of hypocrisy. Admittedly, this isn’t the first time that legislation has been suggested as a solution to a anecdotal problem. But the fact that the ‘problem’ is the ‘persuasiveness’ of talk radio and that this country is a market-based capitalism puts this suggestion in the hypocrisy hall of fame for me.
In this case, Ms. Feinstein has no interest in applying fairness. Her agenda is to eliminate the persuasive dissent of those who oppose her views.

17 years ago

Ah yes, for many office holders, “extremist views” are those that do not agree with mine, and “irrational arguments” are ones that I can’t defeat.
And a racist is a conservative who is winning an argument against a liberal . . .

17 years ago

“know why liberals do better at comedy…”
It’s easier to fling poo, than have a silver tongue…

Carl Elliott
Carl Elliott
17 years ago

Colonel is correct…
Liberals do poorly at talk radio because their arguments tend to be in the form of sound-bites, such as “the Bush tax cuts only favor the rich”. But if you had to defend this position for one hour, with people calling in, you couldn’t back up your sound bite.
In shorter terms, the liberal message does not stand up to close inspection, that is why they can’t make talk radio work.

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