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?Today, we have access to more opinions than we could possibly read in a lifetime of listening to AM radio, cable TV, satellite radio, internet radio, blogs, you name it.
Today the number of radio stations programming talk is well over 2,000. In fact, there are thousands of stations that air tens of thousands of programs covering virtually every conceivable topic and in various languages. The explosion of talk radio has created legions of jobs and billions in economic value. Not bad for an industry that only 20 years ago was moribund. Content, content, content, Mr. President, is the reason for the huge turnaround of the past 20 years, not "funding" or "big money," as Mr. Clinton stated. And not only has the AM band been revitalized, but there is competition from other venues, such as Internet and satellite broadcasting. It is not an exaggeration to say that today, more than ever, anyone with a microphone and a computer can broadcast their views. And thousands do.We are not living in a universe where access to political speech is scarce. Let's be sure that the government doesn't attempt to impose its own limitations on the very type of speech whose protection our Founding Fathers thought was the most essential to a free society.
Mr. President, we both know that this new effort at regulating speech is not about diversity but conformity. It should be rejected. You've said you're against reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, but you've not made it clear where you stand on possible regulatory efforts to impose so-called local content, diversity-of-ownership, and public-interest rules that your FCC could issue.
I do not favor content-based regulation of National Public Radio, newspapers, or broadcast or cable TV networks. I would encourage you not to allow your office to be misused to advance a political vendetta against certain broadcasters whose opinions are not shared by many in your party and ideologically liberal groups such as Acorn, the Center for American Progress, and MoveOn.org. There is no groundswell of support behind this movement. Indeed, there is a groundswell against it.
UPDATE: Senators will get a chance to show how they come down on free speech when Senator DeMint, fast becoming one of my favorite senators, tries to attach an amendment opposing any reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, to the D.C. Voting Rights Act. I think we know how that vote will come out in the Democrat-dominated Senate. Still, it will be good to get them all on record, especially in light of President Obama's supposed opposition. And Allahpundit is exactly right that DeMint should include language on local control since when they come for talk radio, they'll have some other Orwellian name than Fairness Doctrine.