Talk Radio's Long War on the Fairness Doctrine Is Over

What will talk radio talk about now that the FCC deleted its fairness doctrine rule?

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Right-wing radio's long battle against the Fairness Doctrine is over. Today, Federal Communications Commission chief Julius Genachowski said he's removing the Fairness Doctrine from the agency's rulebook. "I fully support deleting the Fairness Doctrine and related provisions from the Code of Federal Regulations, so that there can be no mistake that what has been a dead letter is truly dead," Genachowski wrote in a letter. For the uninitiated, the doctrine required that broadcasters "cover controversial public issues in a manner deemed fair and balanced by the FCC." The agency stopped enforcing the rule in 1987 after it was deemed unconstitutional. That decision made sense: it's silly to try and enforce objectivity among individual radio shows.

But in the last 24 years, the specter of its nightmarish return has been a perennial bogeyman for talk radio hosts. Though some Democratic legislators occasionally voiced support for making the regulation a law (e.g. Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer), it's never been more than a pipe dream. "This is so stupid and it's never going to happen," Bill O'Reilly said last year, at the peak of a particularly paranoid week of Fairness Doctrine frenzy.

Now, talk radio hosts have a serious problem next time a slow news day rolls around. What to talk about? Witness the last few years in apocalyptic Fairness Doctrine foreshadowing:

Rush Limbaugh "These people are going to try to consolidate their power and just get rid of anybody that disagrees with them.  All dissent is going to be squelched... It's been going kind of slow, like a trickle effect so that people haven't really noticed it.  The people losing their liberty have.  But it's been very, very gradual over  years. This is going to be a giant grab of federal power, if these people get everything they want in the upcoming election."

Glenn Beck:  "Yeah it's going to happen. It's going to happen."

Sean Hannity  "They'll have some obscure government bureaucrat monitoring the seconds of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Neal Bortz... They bascially want to pave the way and silence the one avenue where people get alternative information that might criticize Hillary before an election."

Ann Coulter: "The next big 'bailout' planned by Obama, Reid, Pelosi and pals is... THE BAILOUT OF LIBERAL TALK RADIO. Conservative talk radio drives liberals crazy -- or, rather, it drives them crazier. They think it's unfair that more people want to listen to conservative talk radio than to liberal talk radio."

Mark Levin "[President Obama] has never said he would reject it if presented to him, and it likely will appear on his desk."

Laura Ingraham "Make no mistake, imposing 'fairness' on America's radio waves is an end-run around competing in the battle of ideas. Their new motto is this: If you can't beat them, silence them... We could soon see a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President push through a new Fairness Doctrine and that could mean that you won't hear The Laura Ingraham Show and many of your other favorite radio shows on stations across the country."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.