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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.


By RUSH LIMBAUGH


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 ominous.


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 it.


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.




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