Bill Clinton Says Talk Radio Needs More Balance

Saturday, 14 Feb 2009 02:46 PM

By Rick Pedraza

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Former President Bill Clinton, interviewed on radio talk show host Mario Solis Marich’s syndicated program, “The Mario Solis Marich Show,” says the U.S. should consider bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.

"Well, you either ought to have the Fairness Doctrine or you ought to have more balance on the other side," Clinton said, "because essentially there has always been a lot of big money to support the right-wing talk shows."

Clinton noted that conservative talk radio kept up a "blatant drumbeat" against President Barack Obama's stimulus program.

 Clinton said when the Fairness Doctrine was done away with during the deregulation sweep of the Reagan administration, he was not in favor of seeing it go. The doctrine, originally instituted in 1949 by the Federal Communications Commission, required broadcasters over the public airwaves to give equal time to opposing political views.

“At the time, frankly, most people thought that there were more liberal than conservative voices [on the airwaves],” Clinton said.

“I never minded having somebody be heard who disagreed with me,” he said, “but if you only have one side, like this blatant drumbeat against the stimulus program, this doesn't reflect the economic reality we're facing — and it’s an example of why we need more, not less. If you only hear one side on the radio, that’s pretty tough.”

Clinton, however, would like to see "more balance in the programs or have some opportunity for people to offer countervailing opinions" on controversial issues of public importance.

“I think the American people know now that we are in a very serious time where we all need to be questioned,” Clinton said. “The president, I’m sure, would be the first to admit that none of us are right all the time and everything should be debated. But basically, with the future of the country hanging in the balance, we shouldn’t be playing petty politics or just going for entertainment.”

During this past week, Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., have spoken out about the need to bring the Fairness Doctrine back, even as some of their Democratic colleagues are quietly backing off the idea. Both would like to see congressional hearings held on radio accountability, noting that liberal views are being out-represented on the air by conservative views.

“Essentially, there's always been a lot of big money to support the right wing talk shows,” Clinton pointed out. “And let's face it … Rush Limbaugh is fairly entertaining, even when he is saying things that I think are ridiculous."

Stabenow told WorldNewsDaily.com earlier this week: "I think it's absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it's called the Fairness Standard, or whether it's called something else, I absolutely think it's time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves."

Conservative critics note that while pushing for the Fairness Doctrine, Stabenow has not been noting a significant conflict of interest.

Her husband, Tom Athans, is a former executive of the liberal Air America radio network that went into bankruptcy. In 2006, he formed another liberal network, called TalkUsaRadio. A return of the Fairness Doctrine could be a boon for liberal talk networks, as local stations would be forced to include their shows even if they have proven to be money losers.

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