Fairness Doctrine would hurt talk radio

Paraphrasing the pop song: "You talk too much right-wing propaganda, you worry me to death. You talk too much conservative ideology, you even worry my pet."

Official Theme Song of the Obama Administration?

Radio's right-wing punditocracy has long lamented that if a Democrat got to redecorate the White House, they might also give the Federal Communications Commission an extreme makeover, igniting fears of a revived Fairness Doctrine -- mandating stations to air divergent viewpoints, propping up the sagging presence of liberal chat -- 21 years after the Reagan administration sacked it. That could impact Las Vegas stations such as KXNT-AM, 840 (packing a right-wing wallop with Alan Stock, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity) and KDWN-AM, 720 (armed with Heidi Harris, Dennis Miller and Michael Savage).

The doctrine's derided by detractors as an assault on free-market, ratings-driven radio and worse, as a club liberal lawmakers could wield against conservative critics, or at least use to level the media playing field via government edict. Among its advocates are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. John Kerry, largely "swiftboated" out of the presidency by right-wing radio. Then-candidate Barack Obama's camp claimed in June that he "does not support" reviving the doctrine, but if congressional Democrats took another swing at legislation, would he really put his dukes up over it?

Thoughts, talk-meisters? "A lot of people are concerned, but if we're that powerful, how come he got elected and we have a Democratic majority in Congress?" Harris says. "And everybody understands greed. I've had program directors who were much more liberal than me. Whether it's red or blue, it's green they're after. When it comes to the buck, they'll back off."

KXNT's program director, Jack Landreth, says that "government controlling what people say is exactly what the founders would turn over in their graves over. The market needs to bear what it bears. If the market wanted more liberal talk shows, Air America would flourish today and Al Franken would still be a talk-show host, not a senator."

Resurrecting the doctrine from the dead would indeed be a grave mistake. Beyond tempting government of either party to bully their positions into the media, the wound to political talk radio could be fatal. Liberals largely flounder in this medium (why is another discussion) and stations would be forced to slash conservative conversation to satisfy the doctrine's spirit of "balance," decimating the genre. Regulators attempting to define different viewpoints and decide time allotments for each could force stations to hire enough lawyers to fill the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. Execs could conclude it's not worth the aggravation and dump the format.

Dump a desire for the doctrine instead.

Penalty Flag: KVVU-TV, Channel 5 has trimmed stand-alone sports from weeknight newscasts. For more, visit the Vegas Voice blog at reviewjournal.com.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.