SURABIAN: The FCC Has The Chance To Protect Conservative Talk Radio From Big Tech


Andrew Surabian Contributor
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The woke left has infiltrated newsrooms and taken control of newspapers’ editorial boards. It has censored and kicked conservatives off Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and just about every other digital platform. It has hired left-wingers deliberately mislabeled as “fact-checkers” and rigged the TV green rooms and cable news stations against us.

But now, longtime talk radio host Hugh Hewitt fears that it’s even planning on enriching Big Tech at the expense of talk radio — the only medium left that doesn’t censor, use or abuse conservative thinkers.

Talk radio has long been a thorn in the side of the radical left. Over the years, it has struck the ire of a who’s who list of Democratic politicians, interest groups and activists and has been the subject of many angry left-wing news and opinion articles within The New York Times, The Washington Post and elsewhere. The reason is obvious: at least 15 million Americans every week listen to Hewitt, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and the rest of the top 15 talk radio programs — and only one of them is left-leaning.

The woke left can’t stand that it doesn’t dominate the radio narrative. After all, its whole political agenda centers around indoctrination and brainwashing, which requires maximum control. That’s why they have reacted so aggressively to Elon Musk promising free speech on Twitter.

We all know what the left’s motto is: when you can’t compete, regulate, censor and destroy.

Enter the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing a dangerous, wonky proposal called “Zonecasting.” Whatever the technical jargon of the rule may be, it is clear that it will amount to an outright decimation of the conservative talk radio industry.

Under Zonecasting, corporate America could start picking and choosing what sections of town they advertise in for the first time ever, thereby taking millions of dollars out of broadcasters’ hands.

The industry has been clear that Zonecasting will significantly strain many programmers’ bottom lines and jeopardize the solvency of thousands of small stations across the country.

Respected conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, who has been broadcasting his nationally syndicated show for over 30 years, has expressed grave concerns over this prospect. In a recent filing to the FCC, Hugh — who has interviewed conservative political leaders such as former President Trump and progressive politicians from Hillary Clinton to John Kerry — remarked that, “Talk radio is the real public square, maybe the last one. Zonecasting threatens that public square.”

What does this Zonecasting threat mean for conservatives?

First, it would mean that the one platform that conservative activists have to voice their opinions free of censorship would become significantly weakened. Thousands of conservative voices across the country would come at risk of being silenced as the left’s monopoly over information dissemination becomes near-absolute. In this new world order, they would have to choose between participating in mediums that silence them, shadow ban them, censor them, or sanction them outright. Is this really a choice that anyone in the United States of America should have to make?

As if that’s not bad enough, Zonecasting would also enrich Big Tech.

While radio represents the third largest industry for advertising spending, the Internet — and Facebook and Google in particular — is the overwhelming frontrunner. Where do you think corporate America will funnel the advertising dollars Zonecasting allows it to take out of the radio industry? You guessed it — right into Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai’s palms.

Advertising is already Facebook and Google’s primary source of revenue. Its ad dollars give them the capital they need to engage in the anti-competitive, collusive activities that have solidified their monopoly statuses and power to kowtow exclusively to the Democratic Party line. It is advertising dollars, after all, that allowed Mark Zuckerberg to spend half a billion dollars last election cycle in his quest to defeat President Trump. With potentially billions of more ad dollars coming up for grabs, who knows what they will feel emboldened to do next.

Thankfully, we may never have to find out. The FCC is currently split politically, with two Democratic and two Republican commissioners. That means that if both Republican commissioners — Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington, both of whom were nominated to the Commission by President Trump — give it a thumbs down it would instantly kill the FCC’s Zonecasting experiment.

If they care about free speech, free expression and competition in the way that my former colleagues in the Trump White House, and I think they do, then this death knell for free speech will never have a chance of seeing the light of day.

Here’s hoping that Carr and Simington stand for what’s right. The health of free speech and the future of the conservative movement in America depends on it.

Andrew Surabian is a Republican strategist who has worked with numerous candidates for federal office and serves as a political adviser to Donald Trump Jr. He served previously as a special assistant to President Trump and deputy strategist in the White House.