A recent report by the Center for American Progress and Free Press confirms that talk radio, one of the most widely used media formats in America, is dominated almost exclusively by conservatives. It also finds that ownership diversity is needed to ensure balance:
Ownership diversity is perhaps the single most important variable contributing to the structural imbalance based on the data. … [S]tations controlled by group owners — those with stations in multiple markets or more than three stations in a single market — were statistically more likely to air conservative talk.
A few days after the release of the report, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) introduced a bill in the House blocking the resurrection of the Fairness Doctrine. On Friday, McCain joined him, introducing the Broadcaster Freedom Act:
With the great number of media sources available today, divergent viewpoints do not have to be offered on the same radio or television show, but can be found simply by channel surfing, reading a newspaper or browsing an Internet blog.
Despite these alarms by McCain and others on the right wing, the Fairness Doctrine is not likely to be reinstated. In fact, the CAP/Free Press report specifically states, “Simply reinstating the Fairness Doctrine will do little to address the gap between conservative and progressive talk unless the underlying elements of the public trustee doctrine are enforced.”
McCain’s bill is nothing more than a pander to the right wing. In the past, the senator has repeatedly advocated greater media diversity. In 2002, he introduced the Telecommunications Ownership Diversification Act to level “the playing field between small business owners and CEOs of huge corporations trying to purchase a telecommunications business.” Some other highlights:
“I think that’s [the number of minority-owned radio and broadcasting stations] an important factor because that’s where people get their news and information and everybody should have the right to get different messages of different kinds and this is really what this is all about.” [Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing, 1/30/03]
“When one corporation owns all the stations in one market, that becomes a problem for us all,” he said. [National Journal Congress Daily, 5/22/03]
Echoing McCain’s concerns about media consolidation, one of the remedies in the CAP/Free Press report is to restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations.
McCain has sacrificed his “maverick” position on ownership caps in favor of pandering to the right wing on a non-issue.