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Talk Radio

Common sense on what makes talk radio work
Posted by Scott on the forums on July 19, 2007
The left has attempted to reinstate "Fairness" Doctrine-like control over talk radio as liberal hosts haven't gained traction in the marketplace. They claim that they aren't looking to reinstate the doctrine per se, but instead forward the hollow argument that "diversity of ownership" - compelling the government to further limit the number of stations a company can own in each market - will foster more voices and ideas on radio, ignoring the inconvenient fact that the largest radio conglomerate, Clear Channel, put most of the liberal talkers on the air, abandoning the format only when it didn't attract sufficient listeners or advertisers.

Here's a common sense commentary on why some talk radio works and some doesn't - as we well know, it boils down to humor and clarity.

Conservative talk radio flourishes because its listening audience buys the products its sponsors advertise. No one is compelled to listen to conservative talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham; just as no one forces people to watch liberal television personalities such as Jon Stewart, David Letterman and Bill Maher.

Whether talk radio’s subject matter is politics, sports or advice about marriage, a talk-show host has one clear purpose — to keep the listening audience interested and entertained long enough so the show’s sponsors can play commercials between the chatter.

Advertisers understand that listening audiences will purchase products if they tune in long enough; and people will stay tuned only if they perceive a value to what is being discussed on a particular show. Conversely, without a perceived value, people won’t tune in, sponsors will go bye-bye and that air time will be filled by different programming.

To quote successful radio talk-show host, Neil Boortz, “Talk radio listeners will accept and tolerate any position on any issue if it’s presented with rationality and a modicum of logic. They’ll also tolerate irrational and illogical banter provided it’s presented with a sense of humor.”

The author, a business consultant, doesn't come out and tag Air America's real reasons for failure - that its hosts are bitter bores - but he gets the rest of it right.

...unlike the print media, whose opinions are guaranteed by the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC (1969) that print media and broadcast media were inherently different. The court reasoned “the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters … is paramount …”

However, five years later in a separate case, the court came to a different conclusion and said that the Fairness Doctrine “… inescapably dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate.” Broadcast media in the 21st century, cable TV’s virtually unlimited programming potential and the ubiquitous use of the blogosphere with its two million postings per day creates a very different media landscape from what it was when the Supreme Court made its rulings almost 40 years ago.

In today’s world, if there’s a willing audience, a venue for that audience will manifest itself, however, as always, the operative words remain, “a willing audience.”

The government can't create a "willing audience" any more than it can create a love for taxes. Of course, once it creates a tax, it's pretty much there in perpetuity. That's why congress was able to fork, I mean pork, over $420 million of our tax dollars to "public" broadcasting despite the President's plan to eliminate it, and despite the fact that "public" broadcasting is doing fine on its own. What a deal.

It's amazing that there was ever the will to get rid of the disasterous "Fairness" Doctrine. Of course, it wasn't congress that scrapped the pig, but Reagan, by veto, and it's a classic example of how things improve when you get the government out of the picture. That was a magical 8 year period we'll probably never see again in our lifetime.