Harkin: We need the Fairness Doctrine

Debbie Stabenow may now be backing away from the Fairness Doctrine, but another progressive Senator has taken her place. Tom Harkin (D-IA) tells Bill Press that he wants the federal government to open markets for the liberal talker that Press can’t get on his own:

BILL PRESS: And, thanks for your leadership, thanks for your good work, it’s great to have you there Senator. And, great to have you on the show. Appreciate it.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Well, anytime – just let me know Bill. I love being with you, and thanks again for all you do to get the truth and the facts out there. By the way, I read your Op-Ed in the Washington Post the other day. I ripped it out, I took it into my office and said ‘there you go, we gotta get the Fairness Doctrine back in law again.’

BILL PRESS: Alright, well good for you. You know, we gotta work on that, because they are just shutting down progressive talk from one city after another. All we want is, you know, some balance on the airwaves, that’s all. You know, we’re not going to take any of the conservative voices off the airwaves, but just make sure that there are a few progressives and liberals out there, right?

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Exactly, and that’s why we need the fair — that’s why we need the Fairness Doctrine back.

BILL PRESS: We’ll work on that together. Hey, thanks, Senator! Always good to talk to you.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Thanks Bill, see you, bye.

I think a lot of people ripped out Bill Press’ whiny column from the Post the other day, but they had a different destination in mind. So far, Harkin hasn’t introduced any legislation on this point, and it’s possible that he could be just giving Press a tongue bath for PR purposes. However, the Fairness Doctrine has gotten a lot more acceptable as conversation among the Left since Barack Obama won the election, and that’s a very bad sign indeed.

Plus, Press is being highly disingenuous here. If progressive talkers could draw audiences, they would get syndication deals. Radio stations exist to make profits, and they will air whatever sells ad time, especially these days. The Fairness Doctrine essentially forces radio stations to sell air time that doesn’t perform, providing a subsidy to people who can’t compete, and limits the air time available for successful hosts. With only a couple of exceptions, libtalkers just don’t get advertisers, probably because they spend so much of their time railing against corporate America, but also because most of them get microscopic ratings.

That would definitely take conservatives off the airwaves, in more ways than one. First, since the number of talk stations is finite, air time is also finite, and forcing stations to carry libtalkers would therefore require the removal of current programming. Secondly, and more perniciously, the reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine would push radio stations out of the political talk business. It required such onerous minute-to-minute record keeping that most radio stations simply avoided it altogether, even on the previously-declining AM band.

And that, my friends, would suit the Democrats just fine.

One final point should be made. While all of these Democrats keep talking up the Fairness Doctrine in this manner, the mainstream media keeps telling America that they’re not serious or fail to report it at all. Michael Calderone at Politico should be commended for staying on this issue.