Can We Fix “Hate Radio”?

There’s a guy—his name is Phil—who my wife calls whenever something needs to be built or repaired around the house. I’d call him a handyman, but that doesn’t do him justice. You name it— electrical, carpentry, plumbing—it doesn’t matter, he can do it. And he seems like a nice guy in addition to all those other sterling attributes.

But from the moment he arrives until that day’s work is finished, he listens to the radio. Talk radio. Conservative talk radio. No music, just hour after hour of angry conservative opinion.

Our conversations with him are always friendly, but we are careful to avoid politics or current events. If we ever should get into a discussion like that, it would almost certainly end badly.

And that’s too bad because he’s basically a nice guy. But his only source of news and information is that one station, and it’s a relentless barrage of how the fuzzy-headed liberals and the crooked Democrat party bosses are wrecking the country. 

The executives responsible for putting those strident voices on the air don’t give a damn about the issues or about actually helping to create an informed public. They just want to build an audience because the more people listening, the more the network and their affiliated stations can charge the sponsors. It isn’t about an informed electorate; it’s about sponsors who don’t give a damn about Phil-the-Handyman and whether or not he thinks the election was rigged by little green men from some far off galaxy. They just want him to buy whatever they’re selling. 

Some of you have guessed where I’m headed with this: a new Fairness Doctrine.

In 1949, the Federal Communications Commission  instituted a rule that said if someone was attacked on a live radio or television broadcast, that person had to be offered an equal amount of time in which to respond. 

What do you suppose would be the result if that rule were to be brought back by the current FCC commissioners? 

– It’s likely there would be fewer on-air attacks because station owners would be reluctant to give away equal amounts of all that valuable air time. 

– When attacks are aired, at least the radio audience—and all the Handyman Phils—would get to hear the other side of the issues.  

I don’t suppose there’s much chance of the FCC giving us a new version of the Fairness Doctrine. But if they did and the result was better-informed audiences and less angry on-air rhetoric, how could that be a bad thing?