Rush Limbaugh and the structural imbalanced

Rich Lowry:

RUSH Limbaugh, the conservative talk-radio pioneer, has been called many nasty things before, but never a "structural imbalance." That's the fancy term a liberal think tank uses to characterize his success - and to dress up its proposal for counteracting that success through new government regulation.

The report of the Center for American Progress on "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio" marks the latest phase in liberaldom's grappling with conservative talk radio. First came the attempts to create a liberal Limbaugh - Mario Cuomo, Jim Hightower, et al. - that fell flat. Then an entire left-wing network, Air America, was founded, and foundered. So there's only one option left - if you can't beat them, and you won't join them, you can agitate for government to regulate them.

The report looks at a slice of 257 talk stations and concludes that more than 90 percent of total weekday talk programming is conservative. The supposed reason for this is, essentially, that media companies are conspiring to shove conservative radio down the throats of listeners in a way they couldn't if, among other things, government required broadcasters "to regularly show that they are operating on behalf of the public interest."

This is a pinched view of radio. There are upward of 2,000 U.S. talk stations that deal with news and issues, according to Michael Harrison of Talkers magazine, and they encompass all sorts of formats from National Public Radio to urban radio to shock jocks, none of which are dominated by right wingers. Conservative talk radio is a vibrant niche within that market, but there are many other places to go for news and opinion.

What is hard to find are liberal replicas of Rush Limbaugh, and that is due to the deepest structural imbalance of all - talent. Limbaugh and other top conservative talkers are silver-tongued, informative and - importantly - entertaining. These are qualities that can't be conjured out of nowhere, and designated liberal-radio saviors have tended not to have the requisite talent "on loan from God" (as Limbaugh puts it).


Lowry points out that there have been conservative failures in the talk radio market too. I fear there would be a lot of dead air time, if I had my own show. There is a reason why Rush tells callers not to try what he does at home. Most people can't even if they are conservative.

Ironically most liberal politicians at least acknowledge Rush's talent when asked to comment on what he may say about them as shown recently by Barack Obama and the "Magic Negro" parody that liberals tried to make an issue of.

Fundamentally, liberals are control freaks who are frightened by the free market. That is especially true when the market is not buying their stuff.

They really have some bigger structural issues to worry about anyway. For years, the NY Times has controlled much of the national debate as the broadcast networks used its front page to select what coverage it would give on its nightly news shows. However both the Times and the nightly news shows are in decline because people now have many alternatives. It appears the free market is being unkind to liberals there too. They probably think that is unfair also.


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