In The Radio Act of 1927 Congress dictated that the FCC only consider broadcast licensing when doing so serves the public interest. In 1949 the FCC decided to issue a stricter interpretation of the rule stating that in addition to having broadcast's which were pertinent to the public interest, broadcaster's should also do so in a fair manner. The Fairness Doctrine was then issued and enforced.
Under the Fairness Doctrine TV and radio stations holding FCC broadcast licenses had to, devote some of their programming to controversial issues of public importance and allow the airing of opposing views on those issues. This meant that programs on politic's were required to include opposing opinions on the topic under discussion. Another caveat under The Fairness Doctrine stated that Broadcaster's had an active duty to determine the spectrum of views on a given issue and include those people best suited to represent those views in their programming. Additionally, the rule mandated that broadcasters alert anyone subject to a personal attack in their programming and give them a chance to respond, and required any broadcaster's who endorse political candidates to invite other candidates to respond.
The Fairness Doctrine has been challenged numerous times since it's inception on the basis of broadcaster's first amendment free speech rights. In 1969 The case of Red Lion Broadcasting Company vs. The Federal Communications Commission also known as the FCC reached the Supreme Court. The court ruled that although broadcaster's have a right to free speech, the government still had the right to regulate their content because they were in affect, leasing the right to use a government owned medium. However, First Amendment jurisprudence, allowed broadcaster's more speech right's when it came to content. Meaning the first amendment became open to a more philosophical interpretation thereby questioning the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine. In response, the FCC began to reconsider the rule in the mid-80's, and ultimately revoked it in 1987.
This decision has been credited with the rise of conservative talk radio in the late 80's and early 90's. These broadcast's started as a platform for conservative view point's and to further the conservative, philosophy. As time went on, these program's began to dominate the airwaves, and became the vast majority of all talk radio broadcast's. They quickly became a big money machine fueled by corporation's who used the fear of those who listened by promoting rhetoric that seem to play on the paranoia of conservative American's. People who don't know, who don't know that they don't know, and who don't want to know, found programming that validated their concern's no matter how unrealistic or far-fetched they were. It is like being afraid of the dark for no reason, and then being happy than you've found someone to give you reason's why you should be afraid. No matter what those reason's are. The comfort is found in the fact that someone is telling you that your concern's are both well placed, and normal.
Propagandist's like Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannidy have earned hundreds of millions of dollars pushing the envelope of absurdity on television and radio in the name if conservatism. But they are really nothing more than self promoting, duplicitous, pseudo-journalist's spreading lies. They eventually cost the Republican Party two elections. Their conservative ideology lacked substance, their assertions, and claims were rarely if ever fact based, and their numerous attacks on President Obama were beyond laughable. First there was the rise of the Tea Party, a radical, racist fringe group who only seemed to be concerned about big government when an African-American announce his candidacy. Then there was the Birther Movement, the insane bastard offspring of the Tea Party who insisted that President Obama wasn't a United States citizen. Last but not least, the G.O.P's arrogant choices in both Presidential, candidates and running mates. Arrogant is the only word which accurately describes that fact that such poorly qualified, and inept candidates were chosen for those election's with the belief that they could actually win. These elements, while not particularly disturbing to some constituents, were the catalyst's for moment's of clarity to those in the party who were capable of critical thinking and analysis. These rare exception's in the party grew in number and realized that the Republican Party had gone to the extreme right of Reagan, and even further to the right of basic conservative view points for a profit. They have realized that it has become less about politic's and more about entertainment. The extremes becoming so extreme, that its proponent's seem like high paid circus clown's. If the GOP doesn't undergo a major overhaul it will go the way of the dinosaur, and the 8 track tape. Fossil's of a bygone era, eclipsed by innovation, and progress.