Dear Rush Limbaugh, Why Are You Hell-Bent On Protecting A Radio Market That Limits Free Speech?

limbaughcover.gifIn June 2007, the Center for American Progress and Free Press released a report titled “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio.” It found that, of the radio stations owned by the five top commercial station owners, 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming on those stations was conservative. Only 9 percent was progressive. The report recommended that increasing ownership diversity of radio stations would lead to more diverse programming.

Since the release of the report, the conservative establishment, led by Rush Limbaugh, have launched a conspiracy-laden campaign to convince the American public that progressives are out to kill free speech through re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine (something the report does not call for). In a statement that should have officially killed off the right-wing panic, the White House emphasized this week, “As the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated.”

But the White House’s answer was insufficient for Limbaugh, who is trying to use the issue to mobilize the far right. Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, Limbaugh pens a new question directed at Obama:

Dear President Obama:

I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as “local content,” “diversity of ownership,” and “public interest” rules — all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?

ThinkProgress asked the authors of the original report to respond to Limbaugh. Two co-authors, CAP’s John Halpin and Free Press’s Josh Silver, gave us this response:

Dear Rush Limbaugh:

We have a straightforward question, which we hope you will answer in a straightforward way: When a handful of major media companies control who and what is allowed to be broadcast on the commercial dial, how is that not regulation of radio content? When these same companies then push out one-sided, right-wing information 90 percent of the time, how does that uphold freedom of expression?

Those of us at CAP, Free Press and other public interest organizations do not want to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and we definitely do not want to limit free speech. We want more of it. You and other conservatives seem more interested in protecting a system that does the exact opposite.

If Limbaugh wants a debate, let’s have it.