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Media: Conservatives Dominate The Airwaves

The Center for American Progress and Free Press yesterday released the first-of-its-kind statistical analysis of the political make-up of talk radio in the United States.

JUNE 21, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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MEDIA

Conservatives Dominate The Airwaves

Conservative Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) raised a furor last week when he called out the right-wing radio hosts working to defeat comprehensive immigration reform. “Talk radio is running America,” Lott said. “We have to deal with that problem.” Indeed, despite the dramatic expansion of viewing and listening options for consumers today, traditional radio remains one of the most widely used media formats in America, reaching an estimated 50 million listeners each week on more than 1,700 stations across the nation. More importantly, talk radio is dominated almost exclusively by conservatives. The Center for American Progress and Free Press yesterday released the first-of-its-kind statistical analysis of the political make-up of talk radio in the United States. The results confirm the stunning lack of diversity in talk radio, and raise serious questions about whether the companies licensed to broadcast over the public airwaves are serving the listening needs of all Americans.

HOW BAD IS IT: According to the new report, in the spring of 2007, 91 percent of the political talk radio programming on the stations owned by the top five commercial station owners was conservative, and only 9 percent was progressive. Ninety-two percent of these stations (236 stations out of 257) do not broadcast a single minute of progressive talk radio programming. In the top 10 radio markets in the country, 76 percent of the news/talk programming is conservative, while 24 percent is progressive. In four of those top 10 markets — Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston — the domination of conservative talk radio is between 96 and 100 percent.

MORE CONSOLIDATION, LESS DIVERSITY, LESS ACCOUNTABILITY: The increasing imbalance in talk radio has paralleled significant shifts in the media ownership landscape. Since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, there has been a dramatic decline (34 percent) in the number of radio station owners, meaning a sharp increase in media ownership concentration. This trend has occurred because Congress eliminated restrictions on the total ownership of radio stations by any one media entity. Now, in the largest markets with 45 or more commercial radio stations, one entity may own or control up to eight commercial radio stations. As a result, women and minorities “have largely been shut out of radio ownership in this country,” owning just 6 and 7.7 percent respectively of the nation’s full power radio stations. Also, due to increasing deregulation, local accountability over the public airwaves has been sharply limited. Radio stations are licensed by the government and are meant to operate in the public interest. Yet stations no longer have to inform the community of their obligations as a federal licensee, and the needs and interests of local communities are being ignored.

HOW TO SOLVE IT:
The primary goals of policy proposals to reduce the gap should be to encourage more speech on the airwaves, not less, and to ensure that local needs are being met and diverse opinions are being aired. First, the CAP/Free Press report recommends that Congress promote ownership diversity by restoring the local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations. For instance, no one entity should control more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market. Second, the report recommends that steps be taken ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing. Radio broadcast licensees should regularly show that they are operating on behalf of the public interest, and provide public documentation showing how they are meeting these obligations. Finally, if commercial radio broadcasters are unwilling to abide by these regulatory standards or the FCC is unable to effectively regulate in the public interest, a spectrum use fee should be levied on owners to directly support local, regional, and national public broadcasting. (For far more detailed explanations of the policy proposals, read the full report.)

UNDER THE RADAR

ETHICS — IN TESTIMONY TODAY, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL TO CONTRADICT GOODLING: At noon today, former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty will testify before a House Judiciary subcommittee about his role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys last year. In written remarks released yesterday, McNulty indicated that he will contradict the testimony of former Justice Department liaison to the White House Monica Goodling, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee in May that McNulty had not been “fully candid” when he previously testified to Congress about the scandal. “When I testified in February before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I testified truthfully, providing the committee with the facts as I knew them at the time,” wrote McNulty in his remarks. In February, McNulty testified that the White House played only a marginal role in the firings and that most of the prosecutors were fired for “performance-related” reasons, a claim that angered many of the former attorneys, who had largely been silent about the firings up until that point. After some of McNulty’s statements were contradicted by subsequent testimony and documents released by the Justice Department, McNulty told congressional investigators that Goodling and D. Kyle Sampson, then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s chief of staff, had not briefed McNulty fully before his testimony. Goodling denied this claim in her subsequent testimony. Gonzales has also previously attempted to shift much of the blame for the scandal onto McNulty, who resigned from the Justice Department in May.

KATRINA — PARTS OF NEW ORLEANS MAY STILL FLOOD IN MAJOR HURRICANE: With June 1 marking the beginning of hurricane season, meteorologists have predicted a vigorous storm season ahead, forecasting “13-16 named storms, eight to 10 hurricanes and four to six major hurricanes.” This week, the Army Corps of Engineers, which is deeply involved in reconstructing post-Katrina New Orleans, released a report showing that “despite considerable improvement, large swaths of the city are still likely to be flooded in a major storm.” The report shows that the number of vulnerable areas compared to 2005 has declined, but areas of New Orleans — such as parts of the Lower Ninth Ward and Gentilly in the northern part of the city — would be “under more than 8 feet of water.” “The analysis of the city’s risk, more than a year behind schedule and still a work in progress, is an enormously ambitious attempt to figure out just how risky it is to live in New Orleans, and is the first time the corps has released such a tool to the public anywhere in the nation.” Because of its importance, the consequences of the report could be far-reaching for New Orleans citizens. Potentially being used by government and private industry as an indicator of reconstruction risk, the result of the report may lead “insurers and investors to think twice about supporting the rebuilding efforts in vulnerable areas or in the city as a whole.” If you are a resident of New Orleans, you can read more about the flood risk to your specific neighborhood HERE.

IRAN — ‘BOMB IRAN’ PODHORETZ: WAR WOULD ‘UNLEASH A WAVE’ OF GLOBAL ANTI-AMERICANISM: The current issue of Commentary magazine — “widely regarded as the leading outlet for neoconservative writing” — features a controversial cover story by Norman Podhoretz titled “The Case For Bombing Iran.” Podhoretz’s article appeals to President Bush, “a man who knows evil when he sees it” and who has been “battered more mercilessly and with less justification than any other in living memory,” to carry out military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. U.S. diplomats are now pointing to the essay to pressure foreign diplomats to increase pressure on Iran. In a new interview, Podhoretz was asked to comment on the possible fallout of the military strikes he advocates. “Well, if we were to bomb the Iranians as I hope and pray we will,” Podhoretz says, “we’ll unleash a wave of anti-Americanism all over the world that will make the anti-Americanism we’ve experienced so far look like a lovefest.” Podhoretz qualified his statement about anti-Americanism, saying it was only a “worst case scenario.” It’s “entirely possible,” he claimed, that “many countries, particularly in the Middle East” would “at least secretly applaud us.” But even global anti-Americanism is worth it, he argues, to slow Iran’s nuclear program “for five or 10 years or more.” In fact, Center for American Progress senior fellow Joseph Cirincione has argued that such a strike “would not, as is often said, delay the Iranian program. It would almost certainly speed it up. That is what happened when the Israelis struck at the Iraq program in 1981.”

THINK FAST

Revealing further details about the efforts of then acting Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman to politicize the Justice Department’s civil rights division, the Washington Post reports Schlozman “asked a supervisor if a career lawyer who had voted for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a onetime political rival of President Bush, could still be trusted.”

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger will testify today before the Senate Indian Affairs committee in Washington, “where he has become embroiled” in the scandal over the attorney firings. Reports suggest Heffelfinger may have been targeted for removal by the Justice Department because of his role in protecting the rights of Native American voters.

1 in 8: Number of U.S. veterans under the age of 65 who “lack even basic health insurance or access to care at Veterans Affairs hospitals. … The ranks of uninsured veterans have increased by 290,000 since 2000.”

Congress yesterday “moved to block President George W. Bush from developing a new generation of atomic warheads,” because “the administration had not developed an adequate post-Cold War nuclear strategy.” Bush has promised to veto the bill, which denies him the $89 billion he requested for the program.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani yesterday said that joining the Iraq Study Group was a “mistake.” “I thought it would work, but then after a month or two I realized the idea that I was possibly going to run for president would be inconsistent with that,” he said, failing to mention that he initially missed several of the group’s meetings in order to attend fundraising events

“Federal environmental officials misled Lower Manhattan residents about the extent of contamination in their condominiums and apartments after the collapse of the World Trade Center,” according to a new Government Accountability Report.

And finally: No more Blackberries for the French. The Blackberry is now banned in the French presidential palace and government ministries because officials at the U.S. National Security Agency might be “snooping on ministerial messages.” But government employees aren’t happy. “Just when we thought France was entering the modern age of technology, the government bureaucrats snatched it away and sent us back to passing handwritten notes,” noted one worker.

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GOOD NEWS

The Senate education committee joined the House education panel yesterday, overwhelmingly approving legislation “that would cut federal subsidies to lending companies by as much as $19 billion, channel most of those savings to student aid and ease repayment rules for borrowers.”

STATE WATCH

ARIZONA: Lawmakers approve legislation to clean up the notoriously polluted air of Phoenix.

MAINE: Gov. John Baldacci (D) signs landmark bill that “puts Maine on track to be part of the nation’s first regional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

SCIENCE: President Bush’s veto of stem cell research legislation yesterday now “puts the issue squarely in states’ hands.”

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: On World Refugee Day, First Lady Laura Bush falsely claimed that “many” Iraqi refugees have been welcomed into America.

UN DISPATCH: New U.N. report reveals that “for the first time since 2002, the number of refugees and displaced persons around the world is actually increasing” because of the Iraq war.

SCOTUS BLOG: Court order nixing habeas rights for Guantanamo Bay detainees goes into effect.

DAILY GRILL

“Former US Attorney General John Ashcroft said…that the scandal surrounding the firings of 8 federal prosecutors has not damaged the Justice Department. … Asked by The Associated Press if the firings had hurt the Department’s integrity or reputation for independence, he responded simply, ‘no.'”
— AP, 6/20/07

VERSUS

“[T]hey’re sickened by this. Some are actively looking for work. Morale is terrible across the country.”
— Ousted U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, 5/10/07, on federal prosecutors’ reactions to the scandal