Posted tagged ‘Fairness Doctrine’

50 Years Since Barry Goldwater’s Nomination II: LBJ’s War on Talk Radio

July 16, 2014

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Republican nomination of Barry Goldwater for president. Goldwater lost a landslide to Lyndon Johnson, and it’s likely he would have lost either way. But The Right Frequency describes how Johnson’s campaign played dirty nevertheless, using Nixonian tactics well before Watergate, tactics that resemble the politically-motivated IRS Tea Party targeting scandal of 2012.

Barry Goldwater (AZLibrary.gov)

Barry Goldwater (AZLibrary.gov)

From The Right Frequency:

Fred J. Cook, a friend from his journalism days, into the fold to write a piece for The Nation magazine lashing out against conservative talk radio. Cook had just finished a book “Barry Goldwater: Extremist on the Right.” The talk radio piece in The Nation ran in the May 25, 1964 issue with the headline, “Hate Clubs of the Air.” It said, “The hate clubs of the air are spewing out a minimum of 6,600 broadcasts a week, carried by more than 1,300 radio and television stations—nearly one out of every five in the nation in a blitz that saturates everyone one of the fifty states with the exception of Maine.”

According to Friendly’s book, “Because of the close association of James Row with President Johnson and also because of John Bailey’s standing as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, there is little doubt that this contrived scheme had White House approval.”

Bill Ruder, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Johnson administration recalled, “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenge would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.”

The DNC mailed out thousands of copies of Cook’s Nation article to Democratic state and local parties and Democratic officials. The DNC also mailed the article to radio stations, with a letter from DNC counsel Dan Brightman warning that if Democrats are attacked, demands will be made for equal time. When McIntire criticized Brightman for sending the letter, the DNC demanded and got free airtime to respond on about 600 stations. Then, when Dan Smoot assailed LBJ during the Democratic National Convention, the DNC got free airtime to respond on 30 stations, though others declined.

Democrats believed their strategy was successful and decided to accelerate things, setting up another front group called the National Council for Civic Responsibility that took out full page newspaper ads that said, “$10 million is spent on weekly radio and television broadcasts in all 50 states by extremists groups.” Picked to head the group was Arthur Larson, a liberal Republican who had served in the Eisenhower administration. Larson insisted at the National Press Club, “The council’s formation had nothing to do with the presidential campaign or with the right-wing views of Republican candidate Senator Barry Goldwater.” Though, he later came clean that leading the organization was not his proudest moment. “The whole thing was not my idea, but let’s face it, we decided to use the Fairness Doctrine to harass the extreme right. In light of Watergate it was wrong. We felt the ends justified the means. They never do.” He also added, “As soon as I found out the Democrats were putting money into it, I wanted out.”

The Democrats produced their own show called “Spotlight,” prepared segments ready to run as response in free airtime. These spots ran on 60 stations and were hosted by an actor employed by
Rudder & Finn whose on-air name was William Dennis. Johnson scored a massive landslide, carrying all but six states. Dirty tricks by the Democrats had no more to do with his ability to beat Goldwater than Watergate had with Nixon’s ability to trounce George McGovern eight years later. Nevertheless, political operatives felt compelled to resort to nefarious deeds to ensure a wipeout on Election Day.

To learn more about the Johnson operation read The Right Frequency.

 

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Fear Over De Facto Fairness Doctrine

June 21, 2014

Broadcasting & Cable reports:

The House Judiciary Committee has put itself squarely in the middle of the network neutrality debate, asserting its jurisdiction in a hearing Friday—“Net Neutrality: Is Antitrust Law More Effective than Regulation in Protecting Consumers and Innovation?”—in its subcommittee on antitrust law.

LBJ (WhiteHouse.gov)

LBJ (WhiteHouse.gov)

And while the subject was network neutrality, Republicans also saw the specter of a dotcom version of the fairness doctrine in calls for FCC regulation to prevent ISPs from favoring one type of speech over another.

The Right Frequency states why its important to be on guard against the Fairness Doctrine, the former FCC regulation requiring equal time on controversial issues that was often abused by public officials – particularly by the Johnson administration, which sought to silence opposition voices on the air.

An excerpt:

The talk radio piece in The Nation ran in the May 25, 1964 issue with the headline, “Hate Clubs of the Air.” It said, “The hate clubs of the air are spewing out a minimum of 6,600 broadcasts a week, carried by more than 1,300 radio and television stations—nearly one out of every five in the nation in a blitz that saturates everyone one of the fifty states with the exception of Maine.”

According to [The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the First Amendment by Fred Friendly], “Because of the close association of James Row with President Johnson and also because of John Bailey’s standing as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, there is little doubt that this contrived scheme had White House approval.”

Bill Ruder, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Johnson administration recalled, “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenge would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.”

The DNC mailed out thousands of copies of Cook’s Nation article to Democratic state and local parties and Democratic officials.

The DNC also mailed the article to radio stations, with a letter from DNC counsel Dan Brightman warning that if Democrats are attacked, demands will be made for equal time.

To learn more about how the federal government bullied opposition voices, read The Right Frequency.

Final Nail in the Coffin Just Nailed for Fairness Doctrine

May 11, 2014

Sure, the dreadful Fairness Doctrine has been gone as a government regulation since the 1980s. But one last remnant of the ridiculous, speech stifling rule remained until this week, as explained by Radio World. The FCC rejected two challenges to radio license that were made under the “Zapple Doctrine.”

“The Zapple Doctrine required that broadcast stations that give air time to the supporters of one candidate in an election give time to the supporters of competing candidates as well, according to Wilkinson Barker Knauer attorney David Oxenford. And, even though the Fairness Doctrine has been defunct for years, various manifestations have reappeared at times, he blogs,” Radio World said.

To learn more about the abuses of the Fairness Doctrine and the long fight to dismantle it, read Chapters 5 and 6 of The Right Frequency.

 

Radio Surived and Thrives Through Media Revolutions

August 18, 2013

Silobreaker, a publication on technology, carried a recent posting on The Right Frequency.

The article said, “The book explains how radio not only survived but thrived despite various media revolutions over the past 90s years. It also details milestones in the radio era such as the Payola Scandal of the early 1960s and the end of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in the late 1980s, both of which contributed in its own way to the proliferation of talk radio.”

The piece was posted just days before National Radio Day on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

Click here to order a copy of The Right Frequency. 

Does New Fairness Doctrine Threaten Internet Freedom?

August 4, 2013

The Internet is the next battleground over the Fairness Doctrine, a recent Naples Daily News article warns.

“In more recent years, such individuals see things like conservative talk radio as the bane of our democracy, and that such enterprises need to, in the least, be reined in. Many such folk do speak of the good old days of the Fairness Doctrine, a piece of legislation which is in reality the antithesis of free speech. Not surprisingly, many of these individuals hail from a liberal/progressive camp,” the article says.

It continues, “No one is left to solely rely on radio and television, nor do they necessarily have to contend with programming schedules. There’s a universe of information on the Web that can be accessed on demand by computers, tablets, and smart phones. You can get the news that the mainstream media offers, and you can also go to alternative sites. Many libraries across the country are going digital, and you can download books and other materials from their websites for free.”

“It’s out there. All a person has to do is take the time and effort to look for it,” the article further states. “Unfortunately the future of the Web is uncertain. Just as some have been clamoring for the return of the Fairness Doctrine, there have been demands that speech on the Web be regulated and restricted.”

The piece speaks to the potential threats of the Fairness Doctrine. The Lyndon Johnson administration engaged in a “challenge and harass” strategy by using the power of the government to silence radio critics of the administration. These abuses are detailed in detailed in Chapter 5 of The Right Frequency,

Below is an excerpt from The Right Frequency on the Fairness Doctrine.

***

The story of how Democrats used Nixonian tactics before Nixon was ever elected president began in the fall of 1963 when President John F. Kennedy wanted to get the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union approved by the U.S. Senate. The treaty had bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition, thus was
expected to be a close vote. A big concern was criticism of the treaty by the Revs. McIntire and Hargis.
Kenneth O’Donnell, the appointment secretary for President Kennedy sought the advice of former New York Times reporter Wayne Phillips on forcing stations to provide equal time. A behind the scenes effort prompted the front group Citizens Committee for a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which targeted talk radio. The Rudder & Finn public relations firm, which coincidently is the same PR firm the DNC used, did publicity for the committee. Each time McIntire or Hargis took a swing at the treaty, the committee sent letters to the stations that carried their programs. States where these show aired that had senators on the fence were specifically targeted. A special program was taped specifically for responding in each of those stations. When the Senate ratified the treaty by a surprising 80-19 vote on September 24, 1963, the administration saw how the Fairness Doctrine can be used for high priority legislation.
In January 1964, after Johnson had taken office, Phillips began monitoring conservative radio. “It soon became apparent to me that the extreme right-wing broadcasting was exceptionally heavy on particular stations and in particular areas of the country, and that the content of these broadcasts was irrationally hostile to the president and his programs.” Phillips eventually came on board in a more formal role as the Director of News and Information for the DNC. He hired Wesley McCune, head of Group Research Inc., which did research for the DNC, to help him with full time listening duties.
The DNC prepared a kit that it delivered to voters and activist explaining, “how to demand time under the Fairness Doctrine.”
Phillips also brought Fred J. Cook, a friend from his journalism days, into the fold to write a piece for The Nation magazine lashing out against conservative talk radio. Cook had just finished a book “Barry Goldwater: Extremist on the Right.”
The talk radio piece in The Nation ran in the May 25, 1964 issue with the headline, “Hate Clubs of the Air.” It said, “The hate clubs of the air are spewing out a minimum of 6,600 broadcasts a week, carried by more than 1,300 radio and television stations—nearly one out of every five in the nation in a blitz that saturates everyone one of the fifty states with the exception of Maine.”399
According to Friendly’s book, “Because of the close association of James Row with President Johnson and also because of [DNC Chairman] John Bailey’s standing as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, there is little doubt that this contrived scheme had White House approval.”
Bill Ruder, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Johnson administration recalled, “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenge would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.”
The DNC mailed out thousands of copies of Cook’s Nation article to Democratic state and local parties and Democratic officials. The DNC also mailed the article to radio stations, with a letter from DNC counsel Dan Brightman warning that if Democrats are attacked, demands will be made for equal time. When McIntire criticized Brightman for sending the letter, the DNC demanded and got free airtime to respond on about 600 stations. Then, when Dan Smoot assailed LBJ during the Democratic National Convention, the DNC got free airtime to respond on 30 stations, though others declined.
Democrats believed their strategy was successful and decided to accelerate things, setting up another front group called the National Council for Civic Responsibility that took out full page newspaper ads that said, “$10 million is spent on weekly radio and television broadcasts in all 50 states by extremists groups.” Picked to head the group was Arthur Larson, a liberal Republican who had served in the Eisenhower administration. Larson insisted at the National
Press Club, “The council’s formation had nothing to do with the presidential campaign or with the right-wing views of Republican candidate Senator Barry Goldwater.” Though, he later came clean that leading the organization was not his proudest moment. “The whole thing was not my idea, but let’s face it, we decided to use the Fairness Doctrine to harass the extreme right. In light of Watergate it was wrong. We felt the ends justified the means. They never do.”
He also added, “As soon as I found out the Democrats were putting money into it, I wanted out.”

Click here to order a copy of The Right Frequency.

‘Nixon Republican’ vs. ‘Louisiana Biggot’ and the Fairness Doctrine

May 12, 2013

(The following is an excerpt from The Right Frequency.)

“Talk show hosts are laid-back people with pretty faces and boyish grins,” read a profile by United Press International when Barry Farber got a TV show after more than two decades on the radio.
“Farber is craggy, shaggy and intense. He frowns. He ruminates. He interrupts conversations to take notes with a ball point pen that virtually
disappears in the great paw at the end of his shirt sleeve. … He looks more like a hungry bear demolishing a log in search of his dinner, and that’s just the way guests in his ’arena’ may perceive him before they retire, bathed in sweat and wondering whatever possessed them to take him on in the first place.”

As it turned out, Farber—who got his first radio program in New York in 1960—had a short lived TV tenure in the early 1980s, but one need only read this description to understand the impact he had on future talk show hosts in general.
In other venues he has been widely credited for offering reasoned commentary without the bombast so prevalent today. “For the sake of ratings, I will not get into race-baiting and polarization and divisiveness. I will not pretend to be ignorant and stupid,” he said in a 1996 interview. “People like me are at a disadvantage today.”

Farber remains a longtime staple in the New York market and a national voice. He is widely reported to know 26 languages. But the North Carolina native who kept a slight southern accent even he reached big city radio, is quite modest about his knowledge of languages.

“When I entered the Army, I took tests in 14 languages and I qualified as an interpreter and that’s how I spent my time in the Army, translating,” Farber said in an interview for this book. “I am a student of as many as 26 languages. Some I know very, very well. Some I know only greetings, and some I can simultaneous translation in. But it would be wrong to give the impression that I’m fluent in 26 languages. I’ve done broadcast and speeches. I’ve done speeches in Hungarian, Norwegin, Spanish, and I participated in Spanish broadcast and in French, but not extensively.”
He is a self described “Nixon Republican” even after the downfall.

“I was liberal when it came to the issues of racial justice,” Farber said, speaking of his early days when civil rights was the defining domestic issue and the Cold War was the defining international issue. “But I had lucked out and visited the communist world on a fluke when I was 21 years old (Yugoslavia) and I saw all the anticommunist stuff I read was true and it was true in big dimensions. I was very, very liberal on the issue of race, very, very rightwing when it came to issues of communism vs. freedom.”

William Safire, who would go on to become a Nixon speech writer and then a New York Times columnist, gave Farber his first job as a producer for the Tex and Jinx interview program that broadcast over WNBC-AM.

He got his own radio program in 1960 on 1010 WINS-AM, called “Barry Farber’s WINS Open Mike.” It was the only talk program on what was at the time a rock-n-roll station.308 Given the time, it never occurred to him that he could play an influential role advancing the conservative movement as current day talk hosts. Instead, 1010 WINS put his show on to fulfill an education requirement and keep the FCC dogs at bay who had grown hungry after the Payola scandal.

“My first job, I was literally skin grafted with a one hour talk show onto a station that didn’t want or need a talk show but figured they damn well better start moving in the direction they had promised they would or they would lose their license,” Farber said in describing his circumstances. “So I was on WINS when it was a total Rock-n-Roll station, number one in New York, and that’s where I got my first job on New York’s number one station, Rock-n-Roll. I was the one hour talk show from 11 at night to midnight.”

“In those days we didn’t think of ourselves as nation-savers, America rescuers, or ralliers of whatever our political opinion was,” Farber said. “We didn’t know it was possible to criticize politicians,” he said. “It occurred to me to get more exciting guests and bigger name guests. It never occurred to me to do what Rush and Sean are doing today. I really wish it had.”

Throughout most of the 1960s and 1970s, he became a fixture on WOR.311 In 1967, he became an all night host. He considered the station a  dynastic station, with programs passed from one generation of hosts to the next.

“In 1962, I was invited over to WOR, which was sort of like being invited to the throne room. That was the number one station. I was not part of a dynasty. I was the first Farber there, 8:15 to 9,” he said. “Then they added 9:15 to 10. Then they gave me the all night and kept 8:15 to 9 because we were really bringing in good money. I would set with my panel from 11:15 to 2:03 and 30 seconds in the morning. Then they would play that over again, and that would bring them out to 5 a.m. So when you consider, here I am on the air Monday through Friday, 8:15 to 9 and 11:15 to 5 in the morning, plus repeats on the weekends, I was more than 25 percent of WOR’s entire work week.”

Of the Fairness Doctrine days, Farber said he was glad to see it go, but in all of his broadcast years prior to 1987, he was never personally affected.

“I’ll tell you a dirty little secret. We dealt in opinion all the time and the Fairness Doctrine was only invoked upon me once. It was observed in the breach. It was ignored,” Farber said. “Now the Fairness Doctrine was worse than a lot of people realize. It didn’t  merely say we had to grant equal time if somebody felt aggrieved and asked for equal time. If someobody were mentioned in a negative way under the Fairness Doctrine, we were obliged to seek that victim out and invite him to take equal time.”

The only time he was cited for violating the doctrine was in the 1960s when a white supremacist named Richard Cotton, who Farber called “a Louisiana bigot,” demanded his time to respond.

“All I owed him was about four seconds,” since a guest mentioned him in a roll call of bigots. “But I thought, this is a hoot. This is a new thing for me. Instead of giving him four seconds, whatever that would have done, I invited him on for the whole 11:15 to 2:07 in the morning.”

“He said ‘Mr. Farber, I’m entitled to be here and I’m entitled to have my say. The first thing I want to say is that America was on the wrong side in two wars: The Civil War and World War II.’ I said, ‘I beg your pardon.’ He said, ‘You heard me. America was on the wrong side in the Civil War and World War II,” Farber recalled. “I said, ‘I’m from North Carolina, so anyone can argue that. But you mean we should have never fought the late Adolph Hitler?’” he recalled. “He said ‘You heard me. We were on the wrong side.’ It went like that all the way through.”
Farber responded with history, reason and logic and said, “I wiped him out, he was a smoking crater.” But, he said the most powerful
letter he ever received came after the biggot’s appearance. “Dear Mr. Farber, You must be proud of yourself for having destroyed Richard Cotton on the air the other night. Not so fast Mr. Farber. You see, they play by a different rule book. They don’t care about coming into radio studios and winning debates. His mission is to recruit 50 other mentally ill haters out there who will write a post card to his P.O. Box and send him $50 for his Christmas hate package.”

Farber felt horrible, and said the letter was correct. “They don’t care about winning arguments. They want to recruit like-minded people and the only way they can do that is to be as extreme as they can possibly sound.”

But ultimately, “In my experience, the Fairness Doctrine, was almost never invoked … People were attacked right and left by my guests and we never heard from them again. And I remind you this is WOR this is not some little dinky station somewhere.”
Farber believes expanding universe of talk radio, made possible by ditching the Fairness Doctrine, has definitely improved the dial.
“More people with more knowledge are coming on,” Farber said.

Covering a quarter of WOR’s airtime was enough exposure to give him political aspirations.

He exited radio in 1977 to run for mayor of New York City. He initially sought the Republican nomination, but before the primary, the Conservative Party nominated him, putting him in company with William F. Buckley, the Conservative Party candidate for New York mayor in 1965. The difference is that Buckley famously said the first thing he do if he won was demand a recount. Farber had a strategy for winning.

Click here to order a copy of The Right Frequency.

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Immigration Reform and Talk Radio

April 27, 2013

Will the fate of immigration reform be in the hands of talk radio even as popular Republicans are stepping forward to support it?

Last month, the Republican National Committee released an “autopsy” for the party that called for, among other things, supporting immigration reform. Likewise last month, Tea Party favorite and likely 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul expressed support for a process to provide legal status to illegal immigrants. Another likely 2016 GOP hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio previously announced support for immigration reform and is the key member of the Gang of Eight.

But in 2007, talk radio sounded the amnesty alarm. Conservative hosts were blamed (or credited) with derailing a bipartisan measure supported by Republican President Bush and congressional Democrats. Fred V. Lucas writes about this in The Right Frequency: The Story of the Talk Radio Giants Who Shook Up the Political and Media Establishment (History Publishing Co.).

Book Cover

After the defeat of the 2007 immigration bill, prominent Republican Sen. Trent Lott famously griped, “talk radio is running America.” Many Democrats, feeling the medium was too powerful, demanded a return to the Fairness Doctrine.

“The last time an immigration bill had a real chance, talk radio spoke in near uniformity against the bill,” Lucas said. “It looks like it will be much different this time. Certainly there is no lockstep consensus. Sean Hannity – with the second highest ratings of any host – says he evolved on a so-called ‘pathway to citizenship.’ Other hosts still insist it’s ‘amnesty.’ Many conservative talkers are just avoiding the topic altogether, or barely addressing it, perhaps waiting to see how it shakes out.”

“Rush Limbaugh for example has pointed out that surveys show reform is not the top concern of Hispanic voters, so there is no guarantee this will pick up Republican votes as the RNC and some politicians seem believe,” Lucas continued. “That said, Limbaugh isn’t as adamant about the matter as he was in the past.”

After Trent Lott’s assertion, Limbaugh defiantly posed on the cover of his newsletter under the words, “I run America.”

The Right Frequency details how most American talk hosts including Limbaugh, Hannity, Mark Levin and Glenn Beck called on their listeners to call Capitol Hill in opposition to “amnesty.” Listeners obliged, melting the phone lines of their Senators and Representatives and succeeded in stopping the bill backed by leadership in both parties.

However, not everyone thought it was a good idea. The Right Frequency tells of one conservative host who believes his colleagues were short sighted and that Barack Obama would have lost the 2008 election had some version of immigration bill passed.

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for CNSNews.com and a contributing editor for Townhall Magazine.

To read more, click here to order a copy of The Right Frequency.