Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Janet Albrechtsen, a columnist for The Australian, writes a perspicacious blog posting against threats coming from the Left in America of bringing back the "Fairness" Doctrine. On two points, she is spot-on.
First, she describes it as a violation of property rights, which it would be:
Mandating equal time on privately owned radio stations and television stations is the appropriation of private property for political purposes. This is not the same as a legislative requirement for balance and diversity of views on a publicly funded broadcaster. This is interfering in the free market to entrench progressive views that the talk back airwaves have, by and large, rejected. [bold added]Second, she notes the hypocrisy of how this "fairness" would be implemented and sees it for the admission of intellectual impotence that it is:
The push for mandated equal time of radio for progressive views is a clear acknowledgement that without some legislative oomph, left-wing ideas won't survive in the free market of ideas. If liberals were confident about the merits of their ideas, why would they feel a need to force left-wing voices on television and radio?Ouch! And why should we tolerate having them crammed down our throats?
On only one thing do I fault her piece. She gets one issue only partly right, thereby missing a chance to strike a further blow for individual rights:
The only time we should mandate balance is where media is financed by the public. That's because taxpayers from one side of politics are entitled to see their money is not used to finance the unfair promotion of the other side's views. But if a publisher or media owner wants to promote his preferred side of politics on his own nickel he should be entitled to go for it. It would be a pointless as passing a law requiring more balance in Pravda on the Yarra. If The Age wants to cater for a left-wing audience, let them. [bold added]Certainly, if we are going to have public broadcasting, it should be as objective as possible and not cater to any one particular viewpoint. However, the confiscation of money from ordinary citizens to pay for such public media is just as much a violation of their property rights as telling them what to do with their own property.
If we shouldn't bring back the Fairness Doctrine -- and Albrechtsen is absolutely right on that score -- then we should also abolish public broadcasting.
This post was composed in advance and scheduled for publication at 7:00 A.M. on June 24, 2008.