It's not easy to turn a mean, rich white guy like Rush Limbaugh into 'œa martyr,' said The Economist in an editorial. But that's just what some Democratic senators are now doing by threatening to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Back in a 'œprehistoric technological era,' that rule required broadcasters enjoying the use of public airwaves to provide equal time for all points of view. It sounds like a laudable goal. But the Federal Communications Commission retired the doctrine in 1987, ruling that it was an unconstitutional infringement on speech. Now Democrats are pining for those good old days, when radio stations feared airing strong conservative opinions, said Kingsley Guy in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Sens. Richard Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, and John Kerry were furious that Limbaugh and other conservative radio hosts led the recent uprising against immigration 'œreform,'' so they're talking about requiring radio stations to be more balanced. In other words: 'œIf you can't beat 'em, shut 'em up.'
Nobody actually expects the Fairness Doctrine to be resurrected, said Brad Kava in the San Jose Mercury News. But still, there is something fishy about the right's domination of talk radio. A recent study by the Center for American Progress found that 91 percent of weekday talk radio shows are conservative. That's 2,570 hours a day of 'œright-wing flapping on the airwaves,' compared to 254 hours of liberal talk. Conservatives argue that this simply reflects audience choice, but talk radio isn't truly a free market. A handful of conglomerates own most of the stations, and they save money by syndicating the same shows in hundreds of markets. Conveniently, the dominant voices happen to share the owners' pro-Republican, free-market views.
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