Two months ago, Georgetown University affiliate professor of public policy Mark Lloyd was appointed to be the Diversity Chief of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). At the time, Lloyd was also Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR). A quick overview of this legislative advocacy group’s perspectives and agendas reveals a great deal about who Lloyd is and what he believes. Most notably, LCCR condemns the American criminal-justice system as a thoroughly racist institution; it avidly supports President Obama’s quest for socialized medicine; it contends that racism permeates the housing market and the money-lending industry; it views the U.S. as a sexist nation that discriminates against women, particularly in terms of workplace compensation; it supports the League of United Latin American Citizens’ vision of immigration reform, where illegal aliens would be permitted, en masse, to pursue a pathway to citizenship; it favors voting rights for ex-felons; and it contends that the existence of poverty in America is due to “the gates of economic opportunity” being “mostly closed to minorities, women, and others by both governmental and private action.” In short, it views America as a cesspool of racism and discrimination. Lloyd himself embraces each of the foregoing positions.
During various periods of his career, Lloyd has served as a consultant to the Bill Clinton White House and to two of the major funders of far-left causes: the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and George Soros’s Open Society Institute. Lloyd was also a senior fellow at John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, which has served as perhaps the most influential think tank advising the Obama administration on matters of policy. As evidenced by these affiliations, Lloyd is clearly a creature of the political far left.Since Lloyd took the reins of the FCC, conservative critics have accused him of planning to drive conservative talk radio from the airwaves. Some charge that he wishes to restore the Fairness Doctrine, a 1940s-era regulation that required radio and TV broadcasters to provide airtime to opposing viewpoints and was repealed in 1987. As the Heritage Foundation correctly observed years ago, the Fairness Doctrine, far from encouraging free expression of diverse views, actually inhibited such discourse:
“By requiring, under threat of arbitrary legal penalty, that broadcasters ‘fairly’ represent both sides of a given issue, advocates of the doctrine believe that more views will be aired while the editorial content of the station can remain unaltered. But with the threat of potential FCC retaliation for perceived lack of compliance, most broadcasters would be more reluctant to air their own opinions because it might require them to air alternative perspectives that their audience does not want to hear.”
Staking claim to that same ideological turf, Lloyd assures us that he has no intention of repealing the Fairness Doctrine, a position consistent with the one that Barack Obama has stated publicly. So it sounds like Lloyd and Obama are content to let the marketplace decide who wins the battle of competing ideas in the broadcast media, right?
Wrong. “[T]he market solution,” Lloyd laments, “has clearly failed to meet audience demand.” Lloyd elaborates on this theme in “The Structural Imbalance of Talk Radio,” a lengthy report commissioned jointly by the Center for American Progress and the Free Press, which Lloyd co-authored. This publication states that because “91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive,” the stations and networks that air such shows are failing to abide by Section 315 of the Communications Act of 1934, which “requires commercial broadcasters to operate in the public interest and to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of issues of public importance.”
Lloyd dismisses the most commonly cited theory as to why conservative talk radio is so much more popular than liberal/left formats — the contention that “station owners are merely providing the programming that the market forces demand.” Says Lloyd:
“Although talk radio audiences tend to be more male, middle-aged, and conservative, research by Pew indicates that this audience is not monolithic … It is difficult to argue that the existing audience for talk radio is only interested in hearing one side of public debates, given the diversity of the existing and potential audience.”
In Lloyd’s calculus, a more accurate assessment is that “the imbalance in talk radio programming today” is a result of “the elimination of clear public interest requirements such as local public affairs programming, and the relaxation of ownership rules, including the requirement of local participation in management.”
Specifically, Lloyd contends that when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 “removed the national limit on the number of radio stations that one company could own,” it triggered the development of a “wave” of “conglomerates” consisting of “several hundred stations apiece.” Says Lloyd:
“The number of locally-owned, minority-owned, and female-owned stations was constrained—and the very different programming decisions these owners make were less visible in the market.”
Lloyd asserts that this development has had a profound effect on the mix of political perspectives advanced on talk radio. He writes that “stations owned by racial or ethnic minorities [or by women] are statistically less likely to air conservative hosts or shows, and [are] more likely to air progressive hosts or shows” – because conservative programming “is so far out of step with their local audiences.” Moreover, says Lloyd: “Stations controlled by owners who run just a single station [are] statistically less likely to air conservative talk and more likely to air progressive hosts or shows.”
“Ultimately,” Lloyd maintains, “these results suggest that increasing ownership diversity, both in terms of the race/ethnicity and gender of owners, as well as the number of independent local owners, will lead to more diverse programming, more choices for listeners, and more owners who are responsive to their local communities [i.e., the concept of ‘localism’] and serve the public interest.”
In other words, “diversity” and “localism” go hand-in-hand, and both can be used as pretexts for shifting the political balance of radio programming leftward. President Obama himself has cited localism as a key consideration for the issuance of broadcast licenses. On September 20, 2007, Obama submitted a written statement supporting localism at an FCC hearing held at the Chicago headquarters of Jesse Jackson’s Operation Push.
Under localism’s dictates, the degree to which radio stations conform their programming to government-mandated guidelines for ideological “balance” will determine whether or not they are able to successfully renew their broadcast licenses. And Lloyd wishes to decrease the term of a broadcast license from eight years to three years. In other words, every three years broadcasters will have to be prepared anew to make the case that they have been complying with the dictates of localism and diversity.
According to Seton Motley of the Media Research Center, Lloyd “is fundamentally opposed to virtually any private ownership of media…. The original sin in communications, in his opinion, is when … President [Thomas] Jefferson relinquished … the Post Office control of the telegraph. When they relinquished control to a private entity, that was the original sin of communications because that turned over communications vehicles to the private sector outside of the scope of government control.”
This assessment of Lloyd’s views about private broadcast ownership is consistent with what Lloyd writes in his book Prologue to a Farce: Communications and Democracy in America, where he suggests that private broadcasters should pay an annual licensing fee in an amount equivalent to their total yearly operating costs. That money, in turn, should be redistributed to public broadcasting stations (which supposedly are more in tune with their audiences’ needs), thereby ensuring that the operating budgets of such stations will be just as large as those of their privately owned counterparts.
In short, stations that are successful and profitable would be required to turn over an enormous portion of their earnings to competitors that are failures in the marketplace. Writes Lloyd:
“Federal and regional broadcast operations and local stations should be funded at levels commensurate with or above those spending levels at which commercial operations are funded. This funding should come from license fees charged to commercial broadcasters.”
Lloyd views governmental control over the airwaves as a potentially potent “means of social change” because of radio’s capacity, if harnessed properly, to give all Americans “a political voice” and access to “information that they can trust.” By contrast, he views conservative talk radio largely as a source of misinformation. To combat that misinformation, he advocates the abrogation of free speech, as evidenced by this excerpt from Prologue to a Farce:
“It should be clear by now that my focus here is not freedom of speech or the press…. This freedom is all too often an exaggeration…. At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communications policies.”
Lloyd’s campaign to greatly diminish the influence of conservative talk radio, if not to eliminate it altogether, is based heavily on the tactics of Saul Alinsky, the late community organizer who painstakingly laid out a detailed blueprint for revolutionary social change. Citing Alinsky repeatedly as his primary inspiration, Lloyd outlines a strategy that conceals its ultimate objective by masking its radical ends under the rubric of “diversity,” “localism,” and “the public interest.”
But like Alinsky, Lloyd also understands that there is a time and place for open defiance and aggression rather than stealth; for what he terms “a confrontational movement … committed to active and sustained protest against the present order.” By Lloyd’s reckoning, no tactic, however unethical, is off-limits if it stands a good chance of yielding the desired result. Thus he fondly recalls the late Ted Kennedy’s 1987 “campaign to prevent the Supreme Court nomination of the ultra-conservative jurist Robert Bork” as a source of “inspiration and guidance.” In case you’ve forgotten, Kennedy, who vehemently opposed Bork’s constructionist judicial philosophy — the idea that the Constitution is not a “living document” subject to endless reinterpretation — went to the Senate floor to deliver what ranks among the most disgraceful pack of slanderous lies ever uttered by an American politician:
“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens …”
Though Lloyd professes a desire to flood the airwaves with a wide diversity of political opinions, he is a devoted admirer of none other than Venezuela’s Communist President Hugo Chavez – a steadfast opponent of free-speech rights for his political adversaries. At a June 10, 2008 National Conference for Media Reform, Lloyd gushed:
“In Venezuela, with Chavez, is really an incredible revolution – a democratic revolution. To begin to put in place things that are going to have an impact on the people of Venezuela. The property owners and the folks who then controlled the media in Venezuela rebelled — worked, frankly, with folks here in the U.S. government – worked to oust him. But he came back with another revolution, and then Chavez began to take very seriously the media in his country.”
But what has Chavez actually done for free-speech rights in his country? In a March 1, 2009 televised address, he said that “if it weren’t for the attack, the lies, manipulation and the exaggeration” of the private media networks, the Venezuelan government would enjoy the support of at least four-fifths of the population. Thus he ordered his governors and mayors to draw up a “map of the media war” to determine which print and broadcast outlets were “in the hands of the oligarchy.” By July, Chavez had shut down 34 radio stations in the name of “democratizing” the media. On September 5 his spokesman announced that “another 29 [stations] will be gone before long.” It is expected that by the time Chavez is done, he will have forced more than 100 broadcasters to cease operations altogether.
During Chavez’s recent campaign for a constitutional amendment to remove term limits for elected officials, a statistical analysis found that more than 93 percent of the Venezuelan state news channel’s coverage of the proposed amendment was favorable.
Such unquestioning allegiance to the agendas of a far-left president is essentially the direction in which America’s major television networks are likewise headed. Talk radio offers conservatives an oasis of sanity in an otherwise scorching desert of leftist media drivel. Yet Lloyd, like his hero Chavez, would transform talk radio into just another echo chamber for the left – under the righteous-sounding banners of “diversity,” “localism,” and “the public interest.”