Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen

Censorship agenda just wrong


October 18, 2017

From 1949 to 1987, the federal government required broadcast stations to cover — and balance their coverage of — current issues.

This rule was called “the Fairness Doctrine.”

There are natural limits on broadcast frequencies so the government assigned and licensed them. With the licenses, of course, came restrictions and rules. This, after all, was the federal government.

It was conservative pressure during the President Ronald Reagan years that brought down the Fairness Doctrine as a breach of free speech.

Now, however, Republican President Donald Trump wants to bring it back.

It makes no sense for a Republican to call for a return of this rule.

After the Fairness Doctrine was repealed and some ownership rules were relaxed, a whole bunch of very Republican business people bought up enough radio stations to dominate the medium nationwide.

And now they have filled the talk-radio airways with Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Sean Hannity, Ben Shapiro, Laura Ingraham and even ultra-right jingoists like Michael Savage and conservative conspiracy mongers like Glenn Beck and Alex Jones.

You have to look hard to find left-leaning commentary on the radio.

More adults listen to the radio than watch television — 93 percent for radio versus 87 percent for TV, according to the Nielson rating service.

Trump’s purpose in reinstating the Fairness Doctrine seems to have less to do with balance than preventing criticism of Trump.

To his followers, Trump has already re-defined “fake” to mean “critical of Trump.” He and they equate “critical of Trump” with “untrue.”

Armed with a seemingly moral imperative to end “fake news” by that definition, Trump and his followers just might seek some form of media censorship.

That’s just plain wrong.

Even if major media have turned up the volume on negative Trump news and dismissed his achievements, that does not justify censorship.

News media have wisely required themselves to be fair and unbiased, at least until recently. The requirement does not have nor should have the force of law.

The Founding Fathers recognized the absolute need for near absolute freedom of expression. They made that it the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

And even some Republicans are beginning to recognize that if President Trump cannot tolerate the daily dose of criticism that comes with the job even in the best of times, maybe he should look for another line of work.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:




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