Check out City Journal: Adam D. Thierer weighs in on the “media cornucopia” and the Left’s attempts to snuff out abundant conservative voices.
Scarcity-obsessed Dennis Kucinich has recently introduced plans in Congress to revive the Fairness Doctrine, which once let government regulators police the airwaves to ensure a balancing of viewpoints, however that’s defined. A new Fairness Doctrine would affect most directly opinion-based talk radio, a medium that just happens to be dominated by conservatives. If a station wanted to run William Bennett’s show under such a regime, they might now have to broadcast wa left-wing alternative, too, even if it had poor ratings, which generally has been the case with liberal talk. Sunstein also proposes a kind of speech redistributionism. For the Internet, he suggests that regulators could impose “electronic sidewalks” on partisan websites (the National Rifle Association’s, say), forcing them to link to opposing views. The practical problems of implementing this program would be forbidding, even if it somehow proved constitutional. How many links to opposing views would secure the government’s approval? The FCC would need an army of media regulators (much as China has today) to monitor the millions of webpages, blogs, and social-networking sites and keep them in line.
That leftist media critics start sounding so authoritarian is no surprise. In a media cornucopia, freedom of choice inevitably yields media inequality. “In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome,” writes Clay Shirky of New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Overcoming that inequality would require a completely regulated media.
When Rush Limbaugh has more listeners than NPR, or Tom Clancy sells more books than Noam Chomsky, or Motor Trend gets more subscribers than Mother Jones, liberals want to convince us (or themselves, perhaps) that it’s all because of some catastrophic market failure or a grand corporate conspiracy to dumb down the masses. In reality, it’s just the result of consumer choice. All the opinions that the Left’s media critics favor are now readily available to us via multiple platforms. But that’s not good enough, it seems: they won’t rest until all of us are watching, reading, and listening to the content that they prefer.