Talk Radio: Voice of the People (Part 4)

Rush Limbaugh

In the US, talk radio centred around politics exploded after the repeal of the 1949 Fairness Doctrine in 1987. The Fairness Doctrine mandated that the programming ensure a diversity of viewpoints. After its repeal, the US saw the launch of many conservative talk radio hosts to counter what they saw as the liberal print and TV media. The conservative talk radio counter-revolution was led by Rush Limbaugh.

Matthew Lysiak, writing in “The Drudge Revolution”, takes up the story of Rush Limbaugh:

With the radio waves unchained, the stage was now set for an explosive new voice: Rush Limbaugh.

…With the fairness doctrine gone, and stations beginning to do away with the general advice chat shows in exchange for large blocks of programming, it opened the door for more political talk . . . and Limbaugh.

By tapping into the frustration of a growing number of people who felt their points of view were being underrepresented, Limbaugh was able to offer an alternative narrative to the one being offered by the print media or the Big Three: ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Daniel Henninger wrote, in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, “Ronald Reagan tore down this wall [the fairness doctrine] in 1987 . . . and Rush Limbaugh was the first man to proclaim himself liberated from the East Germany of liberal media domination.”

Limbaugh believed that the majority in this country were being misrepresented by the mainstream media and had data to back up his argument. In a 1988 Gallup poll, people identified as conservative or liberal at a ratio of 2:1, whereas more than 90 percent of the journalists and newscasters had donated money to the Democratic Party.

And Limbaugh’s audience agreed. Listeners across the country tuned into Limbaugh in unprecedented numbers. In 1988 Limbaugh began broadcasting his show nationally from radio station WABC in New York City.

… By June 24, 1994, Rush Limbaugh had an audience of twenty million listeners a week, a television show, a bestselling book in the works, the courtship of aspiring presidential candidates, and the commander in chief calling him out publicly as a threat to democracy from Air Force One.

In 6 years, Rush Limbaugh had gone from zero to reaching nearly 10% of America’s population – all the while sitting in a studio and speaking.

Tomorrow: Part 5

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.