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Conservatives &Culture wars Richard Falknor on 08 Nov 2008 03:29 pm

FCC’s “Localism”Rule – Muzzling with Lipstick

UPDATES NOVEMBER 10!  “Is Obama’s New FCC Transition Head Talk Radio’s ‘Executioner’?” by Tim Graham in NewsBusters Rivera’s first opportunity to eliminate commercial talk radio will occur in June 2009, as the term of Republican Robert McDowell expires and he can be replaced with a pro-Fairness Doctrine Democrat. That will give the commission a three-vote Democratic majority, though the final two seats must remain in Republican hands. If they can strong-arm one of the three Republicans into leaving early, this can be implemented even sooner.” Read it here. | “Obama Weighs Choices for FCC Chairman” by Olga Kharif in Business Week — “In making the choice, the Obama team is considering appointing the first African American woman to the post, while it also fields recommendations from advisers who served in the FCC under President Bill Clinton. Heading up the selection process is Henry Rivera, partner at Washington law firm Wiley Rein.” Read it here.

UPDATE! FCC Seeks Solution on Localism – What’s Being Requested?” From an October 3, 2008 post in Broadcast Law Blog: “At the NAB Radio Show, held the week before last, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin suggested that broadcasters should voluntarily agree on a localism plan before there is any change in the administration at the FCC, suggesting that a future FCC may be less willing to compromise than the current one.” ” . . . [A] significant piece of the Commissioner’s suggested plan would include a requirement (or an option) for broadcasters to meet a mandatory localism obligation by funding investigative journalism conducted by journalism schools at various universities throughout the country.” Read it all here.

FCC’s “Localism”Rule – Muzzling with Lipstick

Last June here we wrote about the Federal Communications Commission proposed localism rule.  This initiative, which aims at accomplishing by regulation what the so-called Fairness Doctrine would do but without the warning label, was undertaken during a Republican presidency. If the localism rule goes into effect, it would likely shut down talk radio as we know it.

As Jim Boulet wrote last June in NRO — “FCC Tries to Hush Rush” — here

“The FCC’s proposed regulations claim that radio station ‘programming — particularly network programming — often is not sufficiently culturally diverse.’ There appears to be an assumption at the FCC that each and every radio station, rather than the radio market as a whole, must embody cultural diversity.

What does ‘cultural diversity’ mean in practice? One witness at an FCC localism hearing actually complained that a ‘population of 60,000 Somali Americans’ in Minneapolis-St. Paul were forced to get by with a mere ’10 regularly-produced TV series on vocational training, acculturation, health education and other topics of vital importance’ accounting for ‘approximately 20 hours of programming a week . . . because the community is not deemed to be a viable market..’

This cultural diversity is to be enforced by professional ethnic activists and other perpetual malcontents: All ‘licensees should convene and consult with permanent advisory boards.’ These advisory boards ‘should include representatives of all segments of the community.'” (Underscoring Forum‘s.)

Perhaps no single issue is more important for conservatives (as well as for all U.S. voters) than unfettered free political speech on the airwaves and on the internet. 

Without it, we cannot get facts in time nor can we effectively organize. Yet somehow free political speech keeps slipping down the list of “official” center-right priorities.

Too many Republicans senators here and too many House Republicans here supported, and a Republican president signed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 more widely known as the McCain-Feingold law.

As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote about that lamentable law in his dissent in McConnell v. Federal Election Comm’n  here

This is a sad day for the freedom of speech. Who could have imagined that the same Court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography . . . , tobacco advertising . . ., dissemination of illegally intercepted communications . . ., and sexually explicit cable programming . . ., would smile with favor upon a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government. For that is what the most offensive provisions of this legislation are all about. We are governed by Congress, and this legislation prohibits the criticism of Members of Congress by those entities most capable of giving such criticism loud voice: national political parties and corporations, both of the commercial and the not-for-profit sort.” (Underscoring Forum‘s.)

NRO’s redoubtable Peter Kirsanow last week counseled —

 “Waiting until Inauguration Day to get geared up is too late. By that time the Fairness Doctrine Express will be at full steam— wavering Democrats will be pressed to support the new Democratic president, weak-kneed Republicans will want to display comity, the mainstream media will not be saddened to see talk radio annihilated and much of the public will be too enraptured by Obama’s Camelot inauguration to notice or care.
The model for conservative activism (no oxymoron) on this is the immigration debate of 2007. Conservatives must contact senators now before the congressional holiday recesses. Email, call, write. If you’re in D.C, go to the House and Senate offices. You likely won’t get to talk to a senator or congressman but you can corral members of their staffs. If you’re not in D.C., go to the district offices. Make sure GOP senators hold fast. Let Dem senators know that this is a major issue.”
(Underscoring Forum‘s.) 

Kirsanow is doing an invaluable service warning that “waiting until January to get up to speed [opposing left initiatives] will be too late.”

But we suggest that the first target is before us today: the FCC’s proposed localism rule. Conservatives should focus right now on dissuading the outgoing Bush White House from doing the Democrats’ work for them by muzzling, through FCC regulation, free political speech on the radio. House and Senate members have already laid the opposition groundwork with their letters to the FCC here, here, and here.


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