It’s only right to give the left some air time

Talk radio needs the Fairness Doctrine

Dan Gordon has been selling real estate in Chico for 25 years. He is also majoring in sustainable tourism at Chico State.

For just the second time since 1964, a majority of Butte County voted for a Democratic president. I’m hopeful that the “big losers” in this election were not the Republicans, the conservatives, or their agendas, but rather the politics of division and fear that have been our nation’s political discourse over the past eight years.

With the plurality of our county’s voters in mind, I find it dispiriting that all the weekday daytime talk-show hosts on our local newstalk station, KPAY AM-1290, are conservative Republicans. Their views are interrupted every hour by Fox News, the organization that promotes itself as “fair and balanced” but in reality is neither.

I don’t have a problem with viewpoints that are different from my own. I enjoy hearing the opinions of reasonable conservatives; it helps me to formulate my thoughts and develop my opinions. But there is nothing reasonable or conservative about the views of people like Michael Savage, who could be a poster boy for division, fear and hate.

There has been talk in Congress of re-enacting the Fairness Doctrine that was enacted in 1949 to ensure radio and television stations allow equal time to differing opinions. The same deregulation that swept the country during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, which has resulted in the crippling of our financial system, also dissolved the Fairness Doctrine, leading to the hatemongering that we hear on talk radio today. Sensationalism and shock have taken the place of fairness and balance.

History has shown that when diversity of opinion is not given a voice, extremism will prosper. The quality and reasonableness of our nation’s political discourse has certainly suffered since the Fairness Doctrine disappeared.

The Fairness Doctrine is necessary because broadcast licenses are limited by a finite number of available frequencies. Licensees are acting as trustees of a scarce public resource when they operate a radio station and so have an obligation to their listening audience to present a variety of views.

The Fairness Doctrine does not require an even mix of viewpoints; all it would require is a voice to the opposition in a similar timeslot.

My aunt Esther used to say: “It takes all colors to form a rainbow.” KPAY can allow a little more light to shine through our collective rainbow in Butte County by replacing Michael Savage with someone who represents the liberal viewpoint. It is the type of action that, if followed by other stations across the country, can possibly forestall or even prevent re-enactment of the Fairness Doctrine. The audience would diversify, and who knows, maybe we’d all learn something.