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?


  1. Gee, thats odd Jim, I would think a liberal like yourself would be more “tolerant” and “open minded”, but you are actually suggesting talk radio not be free but regulated just like a communist country would do. If you want things to be 50/50, why aren’t you opposed to the biased media cable news outlets? Freedom means just that, trying to dictate your own opinions as facts is the opposite. Be TOLERANT because not everyone shares your opinions, and suggesting the government force equal airtime over the radio depending on opinions is absurd. It is not done on cable news, only FOX is conservative with the majority liberal. Why do you not have a problem with that? Oh, thats right, they are on your side so its perfectly fine. STOP with these nonsense posts about your own opinions and agenda and stick to passenger trains. Also stop generalizing all Amtrak employees like myself as liberal. Yes I am an Amtrak attendant and I see absolutely no support from either side, and fault groups like the NARP from being political instead of actually taking ACTION. NARP has never shown any direct help or progress in DECADES and I have met the leaders in person many times. Just stop, ok?

    1. (sigh) If a guest on a talk show makes a damaging false statement about a public figure, I see nothing wrong in requiring the station to provide the person attacked with equal time on radio or TV frequencies that are owned by the public. By the way, the Fairness Doctrine applied to all broadcasters, with liberal as well as conservative formats. And, as a former board member of NARP, I will state categorically that you don’t have a clue about what NARP has done. In fact, you should damn well be a member yourself. And finally, I have never to my knowledge characterized Amtrak employees as being liberal. I think that makes you 0 for three today.

      1. Well said Jim.
        Frankly, I think the Fairness Doctrine, as it would apply to all, would really go a long way at reducing misinformation (and hopefully shut up Tucker Carlson). For anyone else who reads this NARP/RPA is probably the largest reason we have an Amtrak National Network. Their tireless advocacy, studies, and education campaign have helped rail come a long way, and has even started to get into the Amtrak company line (https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/intercity/defining-amtraks-true-mission/)
        Amtrak is a national railroad, with employees from 46 states, and i concur, I have never read Jim generalize them as one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.