Should the Government Control Talk Radio to Make it More "balanced"?
Talk radio personalities often have strong opinions on a variety of subjects that they try to force down the throats of listeners without presenting the downside of their views and the upside of opposing perspectives. On the right, the supposed "fairness doctrine," once espoused by self-proclaimed social conservatives, is mostly a formality to legitimize a skewed analysis while extremist liberals on the left fail to adequately recognize the merits of opposing stances in order to take down "the establishment". This can be very problematic as these celebrities have a great deal of sway over their listeners' opinions. Although regulators like the FCC, as well as nongovernmental watch groups, should act to prevent intentional or continual misrepresentation of facts, misinformation, and other harmful acts, it is not the place of government to control media to make it more balanced.
Balance can be achieved by either airing personalities with diametrically opposing stances or ensuring personalities discuss the positive and negative aspects of various perspectives on issues. Unfortunately, both sides of the talk radio industry try to claim balance exists, because there are both conservative and liberal broadcasters. This very weak form of balance, as well as the use of opposing personalities to a lesser extend, can be rather unhealthy as such broadcasts tend to polarize people against each other and encourage listeners to adopt extremist views. Balanced opinions, which help listeners understand how a particular view on an issue is developed and allow for honest debate, are created when people approach a topic of discussion without trying to box a particular issue into their preconceived notions while recognizing their own prejudice.
Talk radio hosts become harmful when they sort through the headlines, as well as historical accounts and other research material, to prove their preconceived notions and fail to recognize when they could either be wrong or the opposing viewpoint could be correct. While it is perfectly reasonable for talk radio programs to feature personalities of their own choosing with strong, clear opinions, it is unacceptable for those hosts to use public airwaves to crush opposing viewpoints through bully tactics, polarizing fear-mongering, misrepresentations, and blatantly skewed analyses. The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and press; however, it does not protect harmful propaganda campaigns designed to suppress alternative perspectives nor does it give Americans the right to slander and degrade other people.
Agencies, such as the FCC, have the authority to regulate and punish media providers for broadcasting harmful propaganda campaigns that are a disservice to the people. It is, however, important to remember the First Amendment does provide a large scope of protections, so it is not the role of government to pick and choose whose opinions are heard nor should they control the substance of those opinions. On the other hand, the First Amendment does not give Americans the right to abuse the airwaves by misrepresenting facts and the statements of others, using fear to incite panic to influence the outcome of public debates, slandering people with opposing viewpoints, and acting disrespectfully. Moreover, talk radio needs to focus on creating a more professional industry that aims to improve discussions with opinions derived from reason, not the ego of some radio personality while government must carefully regulate media without violating the First Amendment.