December 22, 2008
Holy shit! The Head of Air America and Rush Limbaugh agree on something. Namely, their dislike of the Fairness Doctrine.
The conventional wisdom is that Rush's success depended on the 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. Some say that if he had to make time for opposing opinions, Rush would have flopped. Personally, I think he is most entertaining when he is dismantling opposing arguments. He's successful because he is a superior entertainer.
Rush created the new AM template, and it spread like wildfire. When programmers and sales managers get a whiff of success, it is cloned in every conceivable way until the audience, once grateful for innovation, tunes out.
So why didn't liberal talk radio flourish as well? [...]
First, boring hosts made the occasional, unsuccessful foray (sorry, Mario Cuomo). Second, some talented lefties like Mike Malloy were cast into the abyss of right-wing talk radio where they were completely out of place. [...]
Finally, most broadcast owners are conservative. Programs like Rush's have made them rich, so the last thing they want is to mess with success, particularly if it entails airing opinions they don't share. [...]
When we founded Air America, we aimed to establish a talk network that lived at the intersection of politics and entertainment. Of course, we were motivated by our political leanings. But as a lifelong broadcaster, I was certain that at least half the American audience was underserved by conservative talk radio. Here was an opportunity to capture listeners turned off by the likes of, say, Sean Hannity. The business opportunity was enticing.
It never occurred to me to argue for reimposing the Fairness Doctrine. Instead, I sought to capitalize on the other side of a market the right already had built.
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