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The one, the only, the wrong, Bill Press, tries to make his case for the Fairness Doctrine

Thursday, February 12, 2009

HH: He is the one, the only, the wrong, Bill Press, and I welcome him back. Hello, Bill.

BP: Hugh, I haven’t heard Phantom of the Opera for so long (laughing).

HH: You haunt the radio waves, you mischievous liberal you. Bill, you know I love you, we are friends, I want everyone to know that.

BP: It keeps getting better and better.

HH: But I’ve got to say, every time I turn on my computer, you have baited some poor liberal Democrat into saying they want the Fairness Doctrine back. You did it with Debbie Stabenow, you did it with Tom Harkin. What are you doing? You know it’s unconstitutional.

BP: All I do is invite them on my show, Hugh, and give them the microphone, and let them go and talk about fairness and talk about balance, and talk about competition, and talk about the public interest, all the things that I thought conservatives believed in.

HH: Bill, I believe in free speech, and I am surprised that an ACLU card-carrying left winger like you does not ever bother to ask the tough question, which is Senator Harkin, Senator Stabenow, it’s unconstitutional, and liberal scholars believe that. Don’t you believe that, Bill, the Fairness Doctrine is unconstitutional?

BP: I think it is most constitutional to say that radio station owners who get a free, free, free, free, free license to operate the public airwaves should have to live up to the terms of their license, which is to operate in the public interest. Hugh, you are not, by the way, I’m not for the Fairness Doctrine. I don’t care if they bring the Fairness Doctrine back or not. I just think the FCC should exercise some oversight to make sure that radio waves, or air waves, are operated in the public interest, and they’re not operated in the public interest if all you hear are conservatives.

HH: Bill, you’re as slippery as ever. I’m asking you a very straightforward question. The Fairness Doctrine in the old days was put forward by the FCC. Now Tom Harkin comes on your show, Debbie Stabenow, they want it back. It restrains speech by mandating competing views. We’ll come to that. In your understanding of what free speech means, do you believe the Fairness Doctrine is constitutional?

BP: Absolutely, absolutely.

HH: All right, you’re wrong. But now let’s move on.

BP: No, I’m not wrong. It was never declared unconstitutional.

HH: No, but it would be now.

BP: The Reagan FCC did away with it. And again, all it required was that people live up to the terms of their licenses that they have.

HH: It chills speech. It would absolutely be ruled unconstitutional today. But I have a practical question.

BP: No, it was never ruled unconstitutional, Hugh. Don’t mislead your audience.

HH: Bill, you didn’t hear me. It was ruled constitutional in the Red Lion case back when there were limited abilities to reach the public. Nowadays, even Lawrence Lessig and other liberal law professors around the country agree given the multiplicity of avenues with which to reach the public, especially made available by satellite and radio and internet, it is unconstitutional now, because it’s not narrowly tailored. But that’s beside the point. I want to ask you something. If I go on the radio under the Bill Press Doctrine, we’ll call it that, the Bill Press Doctrine, and I say al Qaeda…

BP: I like that.

HH: …is a terrorist organization that’s bad for the world, does the Bill Press Doctrine hold that I’ve got to have on a sympathizer for al Qaeda to defend it?

BP: Of course not. Here’s what…

HH: Yes, it does.

BP: No, it doesn’t.

HH: They deserve representation, too. You’re the terrorist free speech guy.

BP: Wait, wait, wait. If it’s the Bill Press Doctrine, then Bill Press can tell you what the Bill Press Doctrine says, not Hugh Hewitt.

HH: What about my al Qaeda. What about them?

BP: All the Bill Press Doctrine says, for example, that if you’re Citadel, of if you’re Salem, or you’re Clear Channel, and you’ve got 200 radio stations, they can’t all be conservative…I mean, 200 talk, news-talk stations, they can’t all be conservative talk.

HH: Now many of them have to be pro-al Qaeda?

BP: No, none of them have to be pro-al Qaeda.

HH: Well then, you’re making a judgment about content.

BP: No, no, no.

HH: Why does the government get to make a judgment about content?

BP: Hugh, Hugh, operate in the public interest.

HH: Well, the al Qaeda’s part of the public.

BP: Those are not such, in the difficult words to understand.

HH: Okay, let me ask you this. Jeremiah Wright. How many of the radio stations have to be given over to the ideology of Pastor Wright under the Bill Press Doctrine?

BP: No, no, no, no. It doesn’t get into content. It doesn’t take your microphone away. It doesn’t shut anybody down. It doesn’t take anybody’s jobs. I’m just saying that the FCC should exercise the oversight of a radio station, the same kind of oversight that the SEC should have exercised over the banks and financial institutions on Wall Street.

HH: Bill Press, under the Bill Press Doctrine, does NPR finally get shaken out for the left-wing machine that it is?

BP: You know what? We’re talking about news-talk, you know it as well, because it’s your business as well as mine. That’s a defined term. There are stations that are news-talk stations. NPR stations are not. They’re not even in the same…

HH: Well the Bill Press Doctrine sounds like a Bill Press relief act, a mandate to carry Bill Press.

BP: Wait a minute, Hugh, they’re not even…Hugh, NPR is not even in the same category. Look, you know…

HH: It is the Bill Press Stimulus Act.

BP: (laughing) You know, Hugh, all I’m saying, what are you afraid of?

HH: I’m not.

BP: You’re good, you’ll…

HH: The only thing that can stop us is you.

BP: You’re good, you have a lot of stations, you don’t have to worry about the fact that I might get on more stations, Hugh. I’m not going to take your show away from you.

HH: Bill, I want you to earn it. I want you to have self-respect in the morning. I want liberals who can’t do talk radio to stay in the wilderness, and let liberals who can like Bill Press get in front of markets where they should have been carried. My God, you’re about a thousand times better than most lefties. You should be on because you know how to do it, not because you’re mandated.

BP: Now wait…thank you. And so I say give me a shot. But if I go to Philadelphia, there’s not one progressive talk station, not one platform. If I go to Boston, there’s not…

HH: Bill, there’s not an al Qaeda platform, either.

BP: Let me finish. Philadelphia, there’s none. Boston, there’s none. Atlanta, there’s none. Houston, there’s none. I mean, come on.

HH: (baby crying sound effect)

BP: Come on. Just give them an opportunity (laughing).

HH: Bill…

BP: No, no, no.

HH: This is very disappointing. I want you to get to the intellectual problem, which is if someone starts doing what you want them to do, there are going to be winners and losers that are picked by the government, and there’s no intellectual difference between saying I want liberals or I want radicals, or I want left wingers…

BP: All right, Hugh, slow down and answer me this. Slow down and answer me this, okay? Why is it in the public interest, again, for the public air waves, to air on, as far as talk radio goes, to air nothing but conservative talk radio.

HH: Because…

BP: Why is it?

HH: It is in the public interest that air waves be free to let the market decide. And if and when left wing radio has an audience of paying customers, it will dominate the left wing. But right now, you don’t need to have left wing, because you own the networks, you own NPR, you own the newspapers, you own everything else. And that’s why there’s no market for you guys.

BP: I come back to, you cannot say that it doesn’t work where it has never been given a chance to work. You can’t say it doesn’t work.

HH: Oh, Bill, you know radio. They’ll sell their grandmothers for a dollar. If they can make money with left wingers, they would. Bill, always a pleasure, take care, friend.

End of interview.

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