Friday, April 29, 2005

Ending of a Monopoly

Daniel Henninger has a column in Opinion Journal the reviews the history of the breakdown of the monopoly of liberal media following the elimination of the so-called Fairness Doctrine. Link.
In 1987, Rush Limbaugh sat down at a microphone at radio station KFBK-AM in Sacramento and began broadcasting something called "The Rush Limbaugh Show."

The rest is history.

The "rest"--the inexorable 15-year rise of conservative ideas and clout across what Howard Stern calls "all media"--is described in a provocative new book by Brian C. Anderson, "South Park Conservatives." What was once a mostly exclusive liberal country club--television, the press, book publishing, even the campuses--has become heavily integrated with aggressive, even crude, conservatives.

As described by Mr. Anderson, a writer with the Manhattan Institute, conservatives established their first beachhead in the early 1990s with talk radio. Then Fox conquered cable news and finally a virtual Mongol horde of conservative-to-libertarian bloggers swept across the Internet. [...]

Ronald Reagan may not make it to Mount Rushmore for winning the Cold War. But he secured his place in the conservative pantheon for tearing down another wall: the Fairness Doctrine.

The Fairness Doctrine was a federal regulation, dating to 1949, which mandated "contrasting viewpoints" from broadcasters. In reality, the Fairness Doctrine ensured that incumbents got "free" TV coverage across their terms while challengers got crumbs. The Fairness Doctrine was also an early nuclear option: If a local broadcaster's news operation made the local congressman or his party look bad, Washington could threaten to blow up his broadcast license.

No monopoly can exist for long if it does not have a government enforcing it. Contrary to what Marx and the Marxists thought, a free market will overpower any monopoly. Once government enforcement of the liberal media monopoly (technically an oligopoly) ended, the floodgates opened, and conservative voices came to be heard wherever there was easy access (i.e., not on network television or in the major newspapers). That is why it was in the new or formerly dying media technologies - radio, cable and satellite TV, and the Internet - that the formerly excluded conservative commentators thrived.

Left-wing conspiracy theorists see something sinister in talk radio, and they keep trying to enter it. But why should liberal listeners tune in, when they get all of the left-wing news and commentary they want on the major network TV news shows or in their local newspaper, which allows the New York Times to determine for it what is or isn't news. Conservatives did not go on talk radio and cable television because those were their media of choice, but because they were the scraps left over to them. It was their entry that caused these media to flourish. The Internet, starting from zero, was open to all shades of opinion, and all are doing well there, but conservatives and libertarians appear to be doing somewhat better than liberals, because, again, they are not competing for audience with the largest media in the country.


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