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Great Feedback on Our Talk Radio Story

5-31-13

We received some excellent feedback on the talk radio/FCC story we ran on Friday. It certainly generated a very spirited debate, as the talk radio format typically does. Your many comments were worth highlighting today. Here's the original story from Friday. Your comments can be viewed below the story.

The Huffington Post is helping the Media Action Center promote the organizations attempt to stifle the long success of Talk Radio, mainly Rush Limbaugh, and put pressure on radio stations to let them on the air via government mandate. MAC is circulating a petition called "Tell the FCC: Talk Radio is NOT Bonafide News," hoping to get in the ear early of Tom Wheeler, President Obama's nominee for FCC Chairman, and claiming 3/4 of Americans do not believe Talk Radio is bonafide news.. Wilson claims Democrats (read: liberals) are being denied free speech and that "corporate radio stations have abused their licensed privilege to broadcast over our public airwaves." The organization is pinning their hopes on the long forgotten and long unenforced Zapple Doctrine, along with claiming their 1st amendment rights are being violated. Talk radio specialists have always said the reason left or liberal radio has never succeeded is because it lacks any entertainment value.

The Zapple Doctrine basically held that when a broadcast station gave airtime to the supporters of one side’s political candidate, they had an obligation to give like airtime to the supporters of the opposition candidate. "The Zapple Doctrine has not been enforced by the FCC for decades. It is highly questionable whether it has any validity now that the Fairness Doctrine and restrictions on political editorials are no more", according to broadcast attorney John Garziglia. .

Wilson opines..."Will Wheeler choose to put the public interest first, or will his FCC continue to simply turn a blind eye, as the agency has done since the Reagan administration?" She then goes on to claim giant radio stations are illegally promoting one political party over another. "And on the issue of "bonafide news," if the FCC does what it normally does --- that is, cave in to industry desires --- we can say goodbye to any firewall between true journalism and propaganda over our public airwaves. The blurring between fact and opinion will go unabated, and Rush Limbaugh will be featured in journalism textbooks alongside Walter Cronkite."

The Media Action Center is attempting to have the license renewal of Journal's WTMJ-AM based on programming disagreements, a violation of the first amendment and the failure of station management to have character (you can read Journal's response to that attempt HERE). This decision may come before Wheeler's FCC. Wilson claims, "One of the first questions Wheeler's FCC will have to (reluctantly?) decide: Is talk radio the same as "bonafide news"?

Back to Garziglia who says The Media Action Center Petition to Deny, and its blog posting, is a misinformed hyperbolic attempt to have the government use its licensing processes to silence a speaker with whom MAC disagrees. "If the FCC was to use its licensing power to silence a radio station for the broadcast of programming that it, or certain citizens, disagreed, that would be a clear violation of the First Amendment.  Thankfully, the FCC has not shown the propensity to engage in such censorship, at least for political speech (indecency is another issue altogether), for some time now."

Garziglia concludes, "Radio listeners often have the erroneous impression that they, or others who are not the radio station licensee, have some sort of First Amendment right to airtime. That is wholly wrong.  With the exception of equal opportunities afforded by law to political candidates themselves, there is no such right to airtime.  Rather, the First Amendment right is the radio station’s right to broadcast free of governmental censorship or restraint, in the same way that a newspaper publisher or any speaker or writer enjoys that same right to speak and write."




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