Thursday, June 21, 2007

Report Challenges Fairness of Political Talk Coverage

There is no dispute that conservatives own talk radio. The report released today by liberal-leaning Center for American Progress and Free Press, a media reform group, states in its opening paragraphs that there are over 10 hours of conservative talk for every one hour liberal talk on the 257 talk radio stations operated by the five largest station owners.

Where this report entitled "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk" differs from other studies of political talk radio (Democracy Radio revealed the same 10 to 1 conservative advantage in report released three years ago) is that it attempts to identify why the imbalance exists and what can be done to correct it.

And while right wing supporters of the status quo have stacked their defense on a goal line stand against the reenactment of the Fairness Doctrine, the CAP/FD report contends that a new Fairness Doctrine is not necessary. The report contends that political imbalance can be addressed by restoring the ownership caps, license renewal, and localism standards that were discarded in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

It looks a like libs are attempting an end run.

The CAP/FD report concludes with the following statement

The gap between
conservative and progressive talk radio is
the result of multiple structural problems
in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly
the complete breakdown of the public
trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination
of clear public interest requirements
for broadcasting, and the relaxation of
ownership rules including the requirement
of local participation in management.


Needless to say conservatives are going nuts. I received at least a dozen "Google Alerts" this morning – all from right wing bloggers. Here in one diatribe and here’s another.

While anyone with a radio in his car knows that conservatives dominate the talk format, we found the methodology used in the CAP/FD report a little weak. For one thing, they only surveyed stations owned by the top five stations groups – Clear Channel, CBS, Citadel, Cumulus, and Salem. Secondly, they did not factor in the ratings or reach of the stations. So weak lib stations like WDTW in Detroit and WWRC in Washington were compared equally with 50,000-watt blowtorch stations WJR and WMAL. If ratings and reach were taken into consideration conservative talker’s advantage over lib talkers increases to 13 to 1.

However, the strength of the CAP/FP report is not their analysis of the gross imbalance in political talk radio, but in their attempt to demystify why this imbalance exists. In doing so, the report takes issue with the two reasons pundits have used to explain why talk radio skews so dominantly to the right -- the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine and
the consideration of market demands.

The report states:

Both of these arguments are inadequate
and both lead to specific policy recommendations
that are insufficient for correcting
the structural imbalance in talk
radio programming.





It essentially concludes that the Fairness Doctrine is an irrelevant issue. It notes that the FD was "never formally repealed" and that Court rulings authorizing its legality remain in place. Furthermore, the FCC maintains the authority to enforce equal time rules in political campaigns and Section 315 of Communications Act of 1934 gives them additional authority to regulate content.

Section 315 of the Communications
Act still requires commercial broadcasters
"to operate in the public interest and
to afford reasonable opportunity for the
discussion of conflicting views of issues
of public importance."


The report also challenges the often stated mantra that radio station owners are just responding to market demands. It takes the position that the convenience of syndication, cutting back local talk, national ad sales strategies, and insensitivity to local market needs are the factors that influence the programming strategies of the large station owners.

When 91 percent of the talk radio programming
broadcast each weekday is
solely conservative—despite a diversity of
opinions among radio audiences and the
proven success of progressive shows—the
market solution has clearly failed to meet
audience demand. Even greater deregulation
and consolidation of radio station
ownership is therefore not likely to meet
audience desires or serve the public interest
in any meaningful way.


The report underscores this point by demonstrating that stations owned by local or small group owners, minority-groups, and women are more likely to offer some balance in the presentation of political talk than large group owners like Clear Channel and Citadel.


It goes on propose three steps that need to be taken to correct the gross imbalance in political talk programming:

1. Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations
Noting that since the radical changes put in place by Telecommunications Act of 1996, there has been 34% decline in station owners and 11.7% decline in minority owners, the report proposes that current rules which allow a station group to own up to eight stations in some markets must be changed:

We recommend that radio ownership
caps be revised as follows:
National radio ownership by any one
entity should not exceed 5 percent
of the total number of AM and FM
broadcast stations.
In terms of local ownership, no one
entity should control more than
10 percent of the total commercial
radio stations in a given market, or
specifically, more than:
– Four commercial stations in large
markets (a radio market with 45 or
more commercial radio stations).
– Three stations in mid-markets (between
30 and 44 total commercial
radio stations).


These changes still allow a station group to own more stations that they could before the enactment of the new rules ten years ago.

2. Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing
The current rules extended license renewal from three to nine years and despite assurances that there would be spot audits and other controls, the vast majority of renewals are completed by simply filing out a postcard. The report proposes the following changes including the restoration of the three-year license renewal schedule:

We recommend the following steps the
FCC should take to ensure local needs
are being met:
Require radio broadcast licensees to
regularly show that they are operating
on behalf of the public interest and
provide public documentation and
viewing of how they are meeting these
obligations.
Demand that the radio broadcast
licensee announce when its license is
about to expire and demonstrate how
the public can participate in the process
to determine whether the license
should be extended. In addition, the
FCC should be required to maintain
a website to conduct on-line discussions
and facilitate interaction with the
public about licensee conduct.


3. Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting
As we know, radio station owners often resist even the modest level of regulation that they have faced during the current deregulatory period. For example, consider the payola scandals in New York. The report proposes consequences for station owners who resist the new regulatory requirements.

It proposes that station owners who do not comply with the new rules be assessed with a "spectrum use fee" of one percent for small markets and five percent for the largest markets.

If commercial radio broadcasters are
unwilling to abide by these regulatory
standards or the FCC is unable to effectively
regulate in the public interest,
a spectrum use fee should be levied on
owners to directly support local, regional,
and national public broadcasting.


The conclusion of the report is that these changes, will not only lead to a more level playing field in political talk radio but also assure that localism is returned to airwaves.

11 comments:

Emacee said...

It's obvious these people don't understand radio.
(1) They expect stations to mix liberal and right-wing talk.
(2) They think all stations are created equal. Class A, Class D, FM. 50Kw or 1Kw. Doesn't matter in their calculations.
(3) They think a bunch of small time operators will program differently than a few big time operators. If anything, mom and pop broadcasters are more dogmatically right-wing (as a group) than corporate types (whose political leanings tend to be pragmatic). CAP offers the typical solution: Affirmative action or ethnic/racial/gender/sexual orientation/disability quotas, which have worked so well in employment and in government contracts.
(4) They blew off the idea of reviving the fairness doctrine.
(5) Nothing can happen while Bush still has a veto. All they did with this is to get the right wing hosts to stop attacking the administration on immigration and start rousing the rabble about how Hillary and George Soros want to destroy talk radio and deprive ditto-heads of their only voice. Everybody already knows the right dominates talk radio. This is not news. Shut up and let them get complaisant until you're really able to do something.

Hannity was lying through his teeth yesterday, pulling out all the stops to get the troops worked up about this.

If CAP is so smart about radio, how come Bill Press' program is so weak?

USpace said...

The people advocating this so-called "Fairness Doctrine" are fascist garbage. Kucinich, Boxer and the PIAPS? DhimmicRATS don't surprise me, but Trent Lott? He is a shameful disgrace.

The truth is that the phony and failing so-called liberal and progressive agenda is a sham and more people are waking up to it. The Left has a very weak argument that comes across even worse on the radio, and people just end up changing the channel.

Also, conservative talk on radio and cable always addresses and discusses so-called progressive ideology so they can logically show how inferior and flawed it is.

No one is stopping George Soros from buying up radio stations or from pumping millions into a money-losing Air America and keeping it going forever. But left-wing talk radio has proven to be such a bad business model that apparently even Leftie Moonbat Soros can't stand donating endless drops of his bucket to it.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
CONTROL the media

socialists as dangerous
should never be exposed
. .

raccoonradio said...

Talk radio should be what entertains and informs and if a libtalker can do a show that brings a wide spectrum
of listeners, and it becomes a hit,
then fine. But don't bring the
government into it, regulating
content. What's next, forcing
atheists to go to Church? This is
an abridgement of freedom of
speech and more to the point freedom of the press.

So far conservatives have done better than liberals but with the right host
and the right formula, who knows. The ironic thing is that many in the entertainment industry lean left so
you'd think they could find someone
to do an entertaining show. But could it be that libtalkers a)
care more about an agenda than
entertaining, and b) only try to
appeal to the far left rather than bring in the middle and right/
far right?

Emacee said...

Dear USPACE,

If you had bothered reading the CAP Report, you would know they are specifically NOT recommending bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.

It would be refreshing to hear a conservative point of view from someone who does more than parrot the ravings of Rush, Hannity, et al.

It would also be refreshing to hear the right-wing hosts not bring up Soros, constantly. But wing-nuts do need a designated villain. Joe McCarthy and Nixon taught them that.

It is interesting that the same wing-nuts who talk about being deprived of a voice have no problem with others being deprived of a voice. It's also interesting in their embrace of free speech in talk radio, they forget the rest of the first amendment and still push for school prayer, faith-based initiatives, public money for parochial schools, illegal abortion and other ways to establish their own religions and legislate their own ideas of morality.

You don't have to be dumb to be a right-winger, but it helps.

Raccoon,

Yes, lib-talk has been too often agenda driven, especially AAR. But had YOU read the report (usually you do your homework) you'd know they want to bring back ownership caps, not (as you put it) regulate content. The theory being that a more diverse body of owners would result in more diverse content. (It sounds nice in theory but it doubt it would actually work that way.)

Right-wing hosts keep "misrepresenting" (i.e., lying through their teeth) about the Fairness Doctrine. You might go to the library and grab and old broadcasting text book to see what it really said and what its affect really was.

Steve J. said...

LOCAL TALK RADIO
I heard Insannity whining today about the possible restoration of the Fairness Doctrine and I decided to update my previous compilation of local talk radio hours, broken down by conservative and liberal shows. The hours below are only for the M-F schedules and do not include repeats.

Based on these hours, you might think that Tucson was overwhelmingly Republican but you would be wrong. According to the Pima County Recorder, Democrats far outnumber Republicans in voter registration.

DEM 95,681 REP 56,313 LBT 2,037 GRN 994 OTHER 63,563


CONSERVATIVE LINEUPS - Daily total: 56 hours

KNST -

6AM - 10AM: Tucson's Morning Show with Jim Parisi
10AM - 1PM: The Rush Limbaugh Show
1PM - 4PM: The Sean Hannity Show
4PM - 7PM: The Savage Nation with Michael Savage
7PM - 10PM: Mark Levin Show

Daily hours: 15 (last hour of Levin show repeats 1st hour)

KVOI -

12:00-3:00am Brian & the Judge
3:00-6:00am Morning in America
6:00-9:00am The Dennis Miller Show
9:00am-12:00pm The Dennis Prager Show
12:00-3:00pm The Michael Medved Show
3:00-6:00pm The Hugh Hewitt Show
6:00-9:00pmThe John Gibson Show

Daily hours: 21

KZPT -

6AM-9AM The Morning Truth
9AM-12N The Laura Ingraham Show
12N-2P The Neal Boortz Show
2P-4P The Radio Factor w/ Bill O'Reilly
4P-7P The Jerry Doyle Show
7P-10P The Mike Gallagher Show
10P-12A The Greg Knapp Experience

Daily hours: 18

KJLL -

7PM - 9PM Tammy Bruce

Daily hours: 2


LIBERAL LINEUPS - Daily total: 10 hours


KJLL -

6AM - 9AM Stephanie Miller
9AM - 12AM Ed Shultz
9PM - 12PM Alan Colmes

Daily hours: 9

KXCI -

3PM - 4PM Democracy Now! Hosted by: Amy Goodman & Juan Gonzales


Daily hours: 1

Steve J. said...

RACCOON - This is an abridgement of freedom ofspeech and more to the point freedom of the press.

1) It's not an abridgment. The gasbags on the Right will be able to bloviate as much as they do now.

2) Neither Fats Limbaugh nor War Whore Hannity are part of the Press.

Emacee said...

Boy, some of you act like the fairness doctrine would take radio where radio has never gone before.

Wrong!

The Fairness Doctrine was in effect for almost 60 years. More of the population was listening. They listened more. They listened longer. Not because there are more choices now. There were other choices then, different choices but choices none-the-less. People listened to radio because radio did a better job of serving people.

I saw a blog the other day where some right-wing but politically correct (a strange combination that seems to happen a lot in radio) former program director, at his wife's instigation, was whining about how car salesmen and building contractors ignore female customers. Seems like a dumb way to do business. But no dumber than radio. Here is a country in which election returns suggest about equal numbers of liberals and conservatives and radio decides to ignore the liberals. Liberals, as a group, buy stuff... stuff advertised on radio. They may not be exactly pro-business but they still go out with cash, checks and credit cards in hand to spend and buy. I'm willing to accept that Oldies and Standards listeners may not be a good buy for most advertisers but not liberals.

raccoonradio said...

boreamerica.com points out that the
co-author of the report has been
involved with lib talk radio.

barooosk said...

Yes, I understand that he heard about this in elevator ride with Senators Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, and Jim Imhofe

Emacee said...

I've read some criticisms of the report's methodology that appear valid:

* They didn't include FM Talkers, which often get into political topics (and these hosts aren't always wing-nuts).
* They didn't include Urban hosts like Joyner, Dyson and others (who tend toward liberal).
* They did include Salem, which inflates the "conservative" scores in many markets.

But come on, Raccoon, nobody with ears and a radio can refute the basic premise. Hosts who call themselves conservatives and stations which identify with conservative politics dominate talk radio. Maybe improved methodology would improve the liberal percentages somewhat. But if they factored in cumes and potential audience (true station coverage areas) the skew toward right-wing talk would be even more pronounced.

Meanwhile, the wing-nut hosts keep lying. They want to make this about the fairness doctrine and people's favorite hosts being silenced.

The real threat is to the bosses who would have to sell off stations (probably for less than they paid) if ownership caps come back. A second threat is owners have justify their service to the public interest, convenience and necessity to keep their licenses. They'd have to spend money to do local shows and local news. And these idiots are so incompetent they can make money with automation and syndication.

Meanwhile, Attention Portland (and fans of WLVP!
The Boston Globe reported this weekend:
Members of the public will have a rare opportunity on Thursday of this week to offer feedback to the Federal Communications Commission on how Portland-area broadcasters are fulfilling their public service responsibilities. FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who will attend the hearing said, "I want to know how the out-of-state ownership is affecting people. I'm not prejudging it, but I am concerned"

duties of a cna said...

whatever happened to freedom of speech you fucking faggot piece of shit!!!!!!