Bill Press, the thoughtful, liberal radio talker writes a Washington Post op-ed for Sunday's paper that's going to be influential.
It's a convincing case for some doctrinal fairness, and free speech to be re-inserted into radio. The new FCC will definitely be reading it.
Press bemoans a station flip -- this one in Washington DC -- from progressive talk to pre-recorded financial advice programming.
Red Zebra Broadcasting, who owns the station throws the bone to the squawkers: they'll add Ed Schultz to one of their right-wing stations -- but it means Schultz's voice will be alone in a din of at least 15 conservative talkers: Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Chris Plante, Michael Smerconish, Michael Savage, Andy Parks, Fred Grandy, Bill Bennett, Monica Crowley, Bill O'Reilly, Dennis Miller and Lars Larsen.
Press writes: "No matter how good Schultz is, that's not a fair contest -- nor a fair use of the public airwaves."
It's what's happening in city after city across the country. In Miami, Clear Channel recently dumped progressive talk for sports; also in San Diego, and Cincinnati. Sacramento abandoned progressive talk for gospel music.
A study by the Center for American Progress and Free Press shows there are nine hours of conservative talk for every one hour of progressive talk in radio across the country.
Press says the claim that liberal talk can't get ratings is nonsense.
In Minnesota, independent owner Janet Robert has operated KTNF (950 AM) profitably for five years. In Madison, Wis., WXXM, 92.1 FM, just scored its highest ratings ever. And KPOJ in Portland, Ore., soared with progressive talk from No. 23 in market ratings to No. 1. Nationwide, progressive talkers Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller have proven that, given a level playing field, they can more than hold their own in ratings -- and make money for their stations.
We'd add not only Thom Hartmann, Rachel Maddow, Alan Colmes, and Ron Reagan, but a host of local talkers who have been held back by this systematic suppression, and rarely given the promotion, or opportunity to perform, much less syndicate. (photo: Bill Press)
It's not the market, he says, but that the few companies who own and control American radio do everything they can to block liberal talk.
In markets like Philadelphia, Boston, Providence and Houston -- "... they join in providing no outlet for progressive talk. In others, as in Washington, they limit it to a weak signal, spend zero dollars on promotion and soon pull the plug."
The Fairness Doctrine prevented that by requiring licensees to carry a mix of opinion. However, under conservative pressure, President Reagan's FCC canceled the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, insisting that in a free market, stations would automatically offer balance.
Seattle is a great example of how commercial radio ultimately hurt itself in a market where liberals dominate the population. Left with few choices on the AM newstalk dial of anything but conservative talk, the listeners went hugely to NPR.
Press argues that the experiment failed. There is no "free market."
The self-regulating "free-marketeers" of corporate media could clean up their own act, which might be a good idea since Democrats now own the FCC.
While the Fairness Doctrine, as it stood in the '80's era won't work today -- a little fair regulating of this strangle-held medium would be good for the Republic.