Saith the Brawler:
A radio station can run Rush Limbaugh if it wants. But if it's going to run the rantings of that big, fat idiot, it needs to run countering views.
Suppose WTMJ runs Charlie Sykes in the mornings, then gives the Brawler all afternoon to rant in reply.
In short--both apparently believe the doctrine would simply require conservative commentators to be balanced by liberal commentators.
Here's the thing, though. The Fairness Doctrine wasn't looking to regulate a balance in political commentary as a whole. It was looking to regulate balance individually, on each specific issue discussed.
In other words, it wouldn't be enough if you gave, say, Al Franken two hours to offset two hours of Rush Limbaugh. You would have to take each and every issue Rush raised, and find someone to offer the opposing view on each and every issue--more than likely several someones, unless you have a duly appointed anti-Rush, who argued the opposing positions simply because it was his or her job (in other words, a lawyer).
It's not a rule friendly to freewheeling, multi-topic talk radio. You, as a broadcaster, would be far better off picking a single issue and then bringing in the opposing viewpoints.
And even then, you're not safe, because the presentation for each issue doesn't just have to be equal--it also has to be fair. Is it a fair presentation if one side did a better job than the other? If one side failed to present the best arguments? If one side presented its arguments in a busier timeslot than the other?
And horror of horrors--what if one side actually won the argument? Would that be fair?
(Keep in mind, too, who's enforcing this--the FCC, whose chair is a presidential appointee. If you think the party in power isn't going to make a difference as to what's considered "fair," I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in.)
It's virtually the same situation as the Title IX athletics fiasco. In theory, there were three ways for schools to come into compliance with that law:
- Demonstrating continual expansion of athletic opportunities for women.
- "Full and effective accomodation" of women's abilities/interests.
- Athletic opportunities proportionate to the student body makeup (i.e. a strict quota).
The only safe way of complying with Title IX was option #3: the quota. And so--because it's far easier economically to eliminate existing men's programs than to add new women's programs--a number of men's sports were decimated.
Likewise with the Fairness Doctrine, and its vague, undefined "fair." When you don't know the rules, the only winning move is not to play--and by and large, that's exactly what broadcasters did, and would do again. Rather than risk being penalized for an unfair presentation of an issue, they would simply seek to avoid presenting the issues altogether.
That may be a win for stances shared by the "unbiased" fraternity of journalists--whose "objective" news broadcasts would once again reign supreme over the airwaves--but it's hardly a win for the public interest.
And after all, as the Brawler rightly noted--the public interest is the bottom line here.