Originally posted on CompleteCampaigns.com and written by William S. Bike
When it comes to national talk radio, conservatives are king…
–Philadelphia Daily News, May 8, 2002*
Conservative political commentators are not just the majority on talk radio–they monopolize it. It’s easy to rattle off a list of celebrity conservative radio commentators: Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, G. Gordon Liddy, Neal Boortz, Mike Gallagher, Matt Drudge, Bob Dornan, Michael Reagan, Oliver North, Michael Medved, Bob Grant, Ken Hamblin, Pat Buchanan, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage–and the list goes on.
However, it is virtually impossible to name progressive or Democratic talk show hosts with the listenership, celebrity, and entertainment value of any of the above-mentioned conservatives.
Limbaugh alone is on 600 stations and has a listenership of about 20 million. O’Reilly is on 205, and is estimated to have as many as 15 million.*
The spectrum of opinion on national political commercial talk radio shows ranges from extreme right wing to very extreme right wing–there is virtually nothing else, wrote Edward Monks in the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard in 2002.****
Since then, a few progressives have managed to make it onto the airwaves, via Air America and a few other outlets. Occasionally, an Ed Schultz or a Randi Rhodes will make it onto the evening cable news talk shows. But their celebrity still pales next to the likes of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, et. al.
In an America in which voters, despite the results of the 2006 elections, are split almost evenly between conservatives and liberals or Republicans and Democrats, a large part of the reason that the Conservative ideology has so many adherents is its articulation in the media–particularly on talk radio. Before the repeal of the federally mandated Fairness Doctrine allowed conservative ideology to be articulated so prolifically on talk radio, virtually without opposition since the 1980s until the rise of Air America and a few other progressives, the Democratic Party was the majority party, and the progressive ideology was the predominant one. That no longer is the case.
Conservative talk radio is a rapid-response media machine, allowing conservative and Republican leaders to strongly influence, if not dictate, what is considered news.** Progressives and Democrats only in the last few years have developed their own rapid response through blogs and organizations like MoveOn.com.
By ceding talk radio to the overwhelming dominance of the conservatives, Democrats and progressives ceded their majority status, and America’s best platform for articulating and disseminating ideas and philosophy, to their opponents.
The 2006 election results showed that Democrats and progressives finally learned their lessons. Blogs, activist organizations, and the few progressives on radio do make a difference. Yet, with the continued overwhelming dominance of conservatives and Republicans on talk radio, it still is vital that progressives and Democrats develop radio hosts as entertaining as the above-mentioned conservatives.
The perception that media are liberal
Creation of perception that the media are liberal was a policy planned by conservatives to increase their voice while stifling that of the progressive opposition. No less a conservative pundit and policymaker than William Kristol said, I admit it, the liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.***
It is not just conservative pundits who are less than fair and impartial, reports webpan.com. The mass media as a whole are seriously biased–the conservative way.**
F.A.I.R (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) has documented that conservative or right-leaning think tanks received more than 50 percent of media citations during a Democratic presidential administration in 1998 and 1999, while left-wing and progressive think tanks overall received less than 13 percent.**
Political opinions expressed on talk radio are approaching the level of uniformity that would normally be achieved only in a totalitarian society…, Monks writes. Yet the almost complete right-wing Republican domination of political talk radio in this country has been accomplished without guns or gulags.****
Unable to fact the fact that a majority of the population simply does not want theocracy, social darwinism, and corporate supremacy, writes webpan.com, conservatives had to find a scapegoat, or invent one if needed. Thus the liberal media myth was born. The liberal media myth is a propaganda tool employed by conservative radio hosts, columnists, and pundits as a convenient excuse why after 20 years their ideology has filed to convince the public at large, and as a memetic inoculation of the public against the evidence that the media bias is in fact a conservative one.
Not only does the liberal media claim have no basis in fact, webpan.com continues, it also does not make sense considering the issue of media ownership and influence of advertisers. Most media outlets are owned by a handful of conservative corporations and individuals, and funded by usually economically conservative advertisers…This pro-corporate conservative bias of the media is well-documented and shows itself in consistent under-reporting or ignoring of any information that would lead people to question the fundamental status quo.**
Thus, the media is not liberal. It is right-wing, and nowhere moreso than in talk radio. The progressive counter-voice must grow if America is to have the balanced dialogue needed to inform people of what they must know to run a democracy.
Opportunity for progressives
Some progressives believe that since radio stations are owned by corporations whose own ideology leans toward the conservative, that progressives would not be allowed to broadcast.
But radio industry expert Tom Taylor, editor of the trade publication M Street Daily, says that simply is not the case. Radio stations would do whatever works, Taylor said. If they found a whole lineup of liberals, moderates, Methodists, Seventh-Day Adventists, or Elizabethan poets that got the ratings, they’d do it.*
Radio corporations act out of concern for the bottom line–and huge amounts of money are at stake, said the Philadelphia Daily News.*
Some also believe that because progressives like Jerry Brown and Mario Cuomo have failed on the radio, that others are doomed to do so as well.
The problem with Brown and Cuomo, however, is that they are politicians, not entertainers. Talk show hosts not only have to inform, but entertain, said Brent Baker, vice president of the Media Research Center.*
No less an expert than Bill O’Reilly himself said, If you had a firebrand left-winger, I think that person would succeed.*
O’Reilly’s prediction may be coming true. Progressive talker Ed Schultz has been on the radio only since 2004, but now is heard on more than 100 affiliate stations, including nine of the top ten markets. Not O’Reilly-Limbaugh numbers, but not exactly college radio, either.
The times, indeed, may finally be a-changing.
*Right-wingers rule the radio waves, Philadelphia Daily News, May 8, 2002.
** The Myth of the Liberal Media, www.webpan.com/dsinclair/myths.html.
*** The New Yorker, May 22, 1995.