Don't Censor Talk Radio--Rush Limbaugh's Open Letter to Obama

| by The Heartland Institute

Rush Limbaugh, one of the Heartland Institute’s
favorite talk radio hosts, suggests that Team Obama has talk-radio
(read: Rush Limbaugh and other conservative hosts) in its crosshairs.
Rush lays out the plan in a letter to the President in the Wall Street
Journal Feb. 20 that we preview below, and provide a link to here.


Dear President Obama:

I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a
straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through
a variety of contrivances, such as “local content,” “diversity of
ownership,” and “public interest” rules – all of which are designed to
appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of
talk radio and the AM band?

You have singled me out directly, admonishing members of Congress
not to listen to my show. Bill Clinton has since chimed in, complaining
about the lack of balance on radio. And a number of members of your
party, in and out of Congress, are forming a chorus of advocates for
government control over radio content. This is both chilling and

As a former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at
the University of Chicago Law School, you are more familiar than most
with the purpose of the Bill of Rights: to protect the citizen from the
possible excesses of the federal government.

The First Amendment says, in part, that “Congress shall make no law
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The government is
explicitly prohibited from playing a role in refereeing among those who
speak or seek to speak. We are, after all, dealing with political
speech – which, as the Framers understood, cannot be left to the
government to police.

When I began my national talk show in 1988, no one, including radio
industry professionals, thought my syndication would work. There were
only about 125 radio stations programming talk.

And there were numerous news articles and opinion pieces predicting
the fast death of the AM band, which was hemorrhaging audience and
revenue to the FM band. Some blamed the lower-fidelity AM signals. But
the big issue was broadcast content.

It is no accident that the AM band was dying under the so-called
Fairness Doctrine, which choked robust debate about important issues
because of its onerous attempts at rationing the content of speech.

After the Federal Communications Commission abandoned the Fairness
Doctrine in the mid-1980s, Congress passed legislation to reinstitute

When President Reagan vetoed it, he declared that “This doctrine . .
. requires Federal officials to supervise the editorial practices of
broadcasters in an effort to ensure that they provide coverage of
controversial issues and a reasonable opportunity for the airing of
contrasting viewpoints of those issues. This type of content-based
regulation by the Federal Government is . . . antagonistic to the
freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. . . . History
has shown that the dangers of an overly timid or biased press cannot be
averted through bureaucratic regulation, but only through the freedom
and competition that the First Amendment sought to guarantee.”

The letter continues here.