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by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

Liberal columnist and former liberal talk show host here, so you can assume I am...a liberal. More than one I've written about the need for the Fairness Doctrine -- a policy that would require the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced -- but yesterday I had a change of heart. While listening to talk radio in my non-satellite radio car this week (I live in the Philadelphia area so if you want to listen to political talk it has to be conservative), I heard Sean Hannity speak of how unfair a re-institution the Fairness Doctrine would be. The light and lilting tones of the powerhouse hunk of conservative talk must have Hannitized me for it finally hit me that there was no reason for the FD, especially on talk radio.

I'd love to be able to tune in the likes of liberal hosts like Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann while on the neighborhood streets of South Philly or the beautiful countryside of Bucks County, PA without having to go on the Internet or purchase Sirius, but in reality, that's not why those on the Left are calling for the FD. They want to use it to correct the airwave disproportion that is 1000 to 1 right wing talk. It's not censorship as some on the right have said, though in his heart of hearts, you know Chuck Shumer wouldn't have a problem if the right's Lords of Loud lost their voice altogether.

Of course, the right wonders why Katie Couric isn't being Fair Doctrine'd -- you know, because Katie's reporting is so liberal. See, that's one of the most successful effects from years of conservative talk. They have so successfully defined anything infinitesimally left of Rush, Sean or Bill as leftist. The center no longer exists. To talk radio, moderate Republicans are leftists or has Rush has already said, "If you are a moderate Republican you stand for nothing." To the far right, Katie Couric is a communist mouthpiece.

And they've done this with the willing consent of the mainstream media. The liberal mainstream media. The liberal mainstream media is so intimidated by the Lords of Loud that they think the balance to the truth in news is to make room for right wing spin. Shows like The Today Show bring on right wing shills like Bill O'Reilly and give them a platform, not for their take on the news, but for their twist of the facts.

Democratic politicians have been calling for more of a balance on the radio airwaves. Why? If you don't buy what Rush and Sean are selling, don't listen. Then only those who wouldn't buy anything from the left anyway would be paying attention.

Let those on the right listen to what they want to. It's not going to change any minds. If those on the left want entertaining talk, let them listen to NPR. I'm only kidding about the NPR being entertaining, but the idea is, right now, conservatives own talk radio, just like the left owns Hollywood. Most films are already barely watchable. Do we really want to legislate half the films to be made by Fox News producers? Did you see "An American Carol?" Even Sean Hannity passed on appearing in that.

In a broadcasting world that works hard at branding (an implied promise that the expected product will continue), mix and match programming rarely works. In 2005, Philadelphia' WHAT AM 1340 radio, not exactly a bastion of conservative talk, sandwiched in liberal talkers Al Franken and Randi Rhodes between their regular programing and they tanked. If liberal talk is to work, they need their own stations. That probably means they won't be heard everywhere today, but for that blame the market not the success of right wing talk.

Award-winning TV writer and author of Great Failures of the Extremely Successful, Steve Young was an original talk show host at L.A.'s KTLK and blogs at

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Albion Monitor   February 20, 2009   (

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