The Right’s Big Lies About Talk Radio

Last week’s release of The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio, a joint report and statistical analysis prepared by the Center for American Progress and FreePress had the blogs buzzing about the reasons for the massive rightwing bias on the radio.

How bad is the tilt. Here’s one key ‘graph from the study:

Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk is broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk — 10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.

A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top ten radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative, and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.

As for the reasons, Conservatives predictably have rallied to claim the disparity is merely the result of the market or, more specifically, public demand.

For a snippet of the debate, Crooks & Liars posted this video clip of a back-and-forth between Michael Smerconish and Ed Schulz.

You can actual boil down the Righty argument to the following formula:

Public Demand (Ratings) = Ad Revenue = Corporate Profits = Show Selection

This simplistic theory is so full of wholes that if a college econ student submitted it as a paper he’d get an “F” at any name college other than the University of Chicago.

The big problem is large group or corporate ownership over radio. Corporations are first and foremost interested in pursuing profits but are not so stupid as to view ad revenue as the sole source of corporate profits from radio. Corporations understand that there are indirect routes toward profits; that’s why they give tons of money to political campaigns. As Matt Yglesias pointed out this week, media behemoth GE gave $807,282 to Republicans and just $474,118 to Democrats. Was there a direct profit from this? No. Was it profit motivated? Yes, GE certainly hopes it leads to favorable regulation and legislation empowering it to make greater fortunes.

Once you understand the simple concept that corporations are smart enough to understand that they make greater profits by affecting the regulatory and legislative processes, it is just as easy to understand that they have profit-motivated reasons for affecting public opinion that, like politicians, can impact these processes. Corporations understand, and factor in, the fact that right wing radio with a corporate friendly message makes them more indirect money than progressive radio with a corporate accountability message.

This is not only done through programming decisions by ownership but by corporations through their decisions in spending advertising dollars.

Turning over control of the public airwaves to profit-motivated corporations is problematic for the public. The public airwaves belong to us all and should be distributed in a fashion that more proportionately represents all voices. A return to the Fairness Doctrine and requirements for greater local control and less consolidation of the airwaves in the hands of giant corporations is what is needed.

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