Editor’s note: to acknowledge this weekend’s Talker’s Radio convention, at which Rush Limbaugh is being honored with their annual Freedom of Speech award, we’re updating and re-posting this LK piece, which originally appeared nearly a year ago but is just as timely now as it was then.
The Democrats are making a huge mistake entertaining ideas about going forward with their attempt to reinstate The Fairness Doctrine. The purpose of said doctrine is to try to even out the bias of the content currently heard on the political talk airwaves. Think of it as the Dems futile attempt, through legislation, to overwhelm the might of Rush, Sean, Laura, Levin, and The Salem Radio Network crew, among others. All right wing, all masters of the medium. The left’s got no one with that kind of national penetration, with maybe Randi Rhodes and Ed Schultz having the radio chops to compete.
The criterion for getting air time and national syndication is pretty simple: attract listeners, lots of listeners. Radio’s a business. There’s nothing inherent in the right’s material that accounts for their overwhelming advantage. They’re just better at presenting their slant in entertaining and captivating ways.
I know Rush Limbaugh’s twisting the truth like a baker making pretzels, and Sean Hannity’s dispersing his lowest common denominator “you’re a great American” pablum, but they, along with their compatriots, have found a groove that’s working, so there’s no reason to stop their mouth music. Their stations and syndicators care about ratings, not well reasoned, tempered position papers.
The Dem’s mistake is trying to legislate talent under the guise of legislating equal time to polarized points of view. What they should be doing is taking Air America (which no one can turn around given the pool of insipid policy wonks the left offers as radio hosts) and treating it like Microsoft treated Vista: junk it and come up with something compelling that justifies its own existence.
It’s as if the left is admitting defeat in the talk radio space and blaming it on the content rather than the presentation of the content. If the Presidential election and the outcome of last November’s House and Senate races are any indication, the Dems are, at least for the time being, on the winning side of the policy debate. And since these days more Americans get their news from talk radio than from traditional print media, the moderate-left politicos need to see the airwaves as a meritocracy they’ve got to compete in more effectively. In this case, like it or not, the messenger is as (if not more) important than the message conveyed.
I don’t usually have much in the way of fondness for Rush’s positions, but he’s a hoot to listen to. The left needs equally attractive on-air characters, not legislation that’s the air-wave equivalent of book burning.