In the most recent edition of The Milwaukee Magazine, former news director of WTMJ radio in Milwaukee Dan Shelley exposes hyper-right-wing radio host Charlie Sykes (and others like him) for what they are’angry right-wing puppets that ‘exploit the fears and perceived victimization of’¦conservative-leaning listeners.’
Shelley explains how these right-wing blowhards use scare tactics, carefully screened phone calls, meticulously framed arguments and talking points from the Bush White House to scapegoat progressives of all stripes. When Ronald Reagan used line item veto, it was a great way to reign in ‘liberal’ spending; when Bill Clinton used it, it was an egregious violation of the separation of powers. Dick Cheney’s top aide Scooter Libby, when convicted of perjury, was a victim of an over-zealous prosecutor. Bill Clinton’s heinous crime that led to his impeachment? Perjury.
Perhaps the most revealing insight Shelley offers is the supposed ‘victimization’ of conservatives in the media. According to talk-radio types like Sykes and Rush Limbaugh and of course Fox News, the ‘liberal’ media is a vast conspiracy that works to undermine conservative efforts. And the right-wing media’s use of words like ‘Fair and Balanced’ are code words to conservatives that don’t actually mean their balanced at all. It means that conservatives finally have a safe haven from the liberal media (eyes rolling).
While I’m not one to start the drum beat to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, I do think Shelley’s story shines a light on one of the most important issues of the day: media consolidation. When Shelley worked with Sykes and others to build their shows, they looked to other conservative hosts who gained huge audiences through consolidation like Rush and Neil Boortz. And when conservative radio hosts from across the country are getting talking points directly from the Bush White House, their combined efforts create an artificial conservative echo chamber that dominates the radio airwaves.
By finally getting rid of the ideologues like Kevin Martin that are now running the FCC, the Obama administration will take the first steps towards creating a true free market place of ideas in talk radio. Progressive talk radio, despite what right-wing talkers claim, is going strong. Stopping the deregulation of the media and creating an ownership environment friendly to local ownership should be a top priority for the FCC under Obama. I think it’s about time.