More importantly, for reasons that are not entirely clear, liberals and conservatives tend to excel in different genres of American media. Most successful political radio talk shows are in fact conservative. On the other hand, humorous political TV spoofs, like Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," Bill Maher's "Real Time" or "The Colbert Report," tend to have a liberal bias.But the fairness doctrine is not about the little guy, as we know. It is about power, the power to control the information people receive.
Similarly, the major networks -- CBS, NBC and ABC -- are liberal bastions. So are most of our motion pictures and documentaries. The most prestigious and oldest grant-giving foundations -- Rockefeller, Ford, MacArthur and Guggenheim -- are liberal leaning. Likewise are the majority of universities, from the most prestigious, like Harvard, to the largest, such as the California State University system.
Yet, do we want a counter-editorial to everything a Katie Couric chooses to present as news at dinnertime? Or should we demand that Republicans match Democratic numbers on college faculties, or as graduation speakers and grant recipients? Should conservatives be provided an equal-time trailer at the end of "Fahrenheit 9/11" or "Syriana"?
The truth is that savvy Americans navigate well enough on their own through our various partisan genres. Liberals flip through The New York Times, tune into NPR on the way to work, and rave about a movie or documentary damning the Iraq war. Conservatives call into Rush or Hannity, check blogs for their news and watch Bill O'Reilly on cable.
There is a sort of irony in the debate over talk radio. Of all our media, it is perhaps the most populist. A radio host requires neither a journalism degree nor political connections. He just needs sheer talent. The unforgiving market -- judged by how many turn the dial to your show or call in with questions -- alone adjudicates success. Liberals who profess affinity for the little guy should welcome this prairie-fire revolt against the more highbrow New York Times, CBS News or NPR.
The real problem with the Fairness Doctrine, beyond its obvisous constitutional issues, is that Americans no longer need broadcast or cable news to get their information. They can still rely on newspapers, blogs, magazines, and many other sources to get information. The problem liberals have with talk radio is that it exposes them to the world for what they are, the good and the bad. The problem with the Fairness Doctrine is that it won't stop the world from seeing who they really are--not any more.