THE BLOG

Barack and Rush

07/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As reported by Broadcasting & Cable, last week Barack Obama's press secretary, Michael Ortiz, said in response to the trade magazine's inquiry "Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters."

The Fairness Doctrine issue bubbled up recently after reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was thinking about reinstating it, but reinstating it is a sensitive topic with conservatives and Republicans, who fear that Democrats will use it to try to muzzle conservative talk radio, which bloomed after the Fairness Doctrine was repealed and the wingnuts realized they no longer had to be fair.

It's ironic that this week the King of Wingnuts, Rush Limbaugh, signed the richest contract in terrestrial radio history -- $400 million dollars. This announcement of Limbaugh's contract extension through 2016 with his syndicator, Premiere Radio, and giant radio station owner, Clear Channel, came the same week as an 8,000 word article in The New York Times Magazine. A good week for radio's biggest star.

If the Fairness Doctrine had not been repealed, Limbaugh's monster contract and enormous wealth would not exist. So one would think that Democrats and liberals would want the Fairness Doctrine reinstated in order to muzzle Rush and other conservative talkers on terrestrial radio.

However, according to Wikipedia, the Fairness Doctrine:

"...did not require equal time for opposing views. It merely prevented a station from day after day presenting a single view without airing opposing views. The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials."

Thus, if the doctrine were reinstated, stations would just put on liberal talk shows for a couple of hours a day and claim they were being fair and balanced by putting on opposing viewpoints. And, of course, this would not muzzle Rush at all, but give him something more to rant about. No liberal talker, with the possible exception of Al Franken on Air America, ever came close to being as entertaining as Rush, so until a Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert or a cleaned up Chris Rock decides to take him on, Rush will continue to bring in the ratings and earn his $50 million or so a year.

Barack was right to dismiss the Fairness Doctrine issue. The doctrine might have been a good idea when it was imposed on broadcasters in 1949 as a result of anti-Communist hysteria, but it became outmoded and too cumbersome to implement and police, in addition to being unconstitutional. The FCC was right to abolish it in 1987, and the ascension of unregulated cable and satellite radio and television and the Internet make the Fairness Doctrine a dinosaur that need not be brought back to life for the amusement park that is the diverse media of today.

I'm sure Barack understands these realities -- he's certainly no dummy -- and he also understands that Rush is no fan of John McCain's maverick Republicanism. So Rush might be doing Barack a favor by hurting McCain. There are two ways to win a race -- run faster than your opponent or cause your opponent to run slower. Either will do for Barack.

It seems that both Barack and Rush know what's good for them -- the absence of the Fairness Doctrine.