WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Conservatives flooded Capitol Hill with close to 50,000 e-mails and letters this past month in an attempt to stop Congress from muzzling conservative talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and G. Gordon Liddy.
The grassroots lobbying campaign to save conservative media was a response to liberals in Congress who have recently proposed sweeping regulations of mass media -- regulations designed to muzzle popular conservative talk show hosts like Limbaugh. The liberal attack includes an attempt to embarrass President Bush by rolling back a recent decision by Bush's Federal Communications Commission to de-regulate ownership of radio and TV stations.
The FCC's action, taken earlier this year, was a major step towards deregulating mass media and thus allowing the free market -- and not government bureaucrats -- to determine what voices should be heard.
The massive outpouring of support on the issue came about after several conservative organizations -- including the American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform -- alerted their members about threats to talk radio. On September 9, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial entitled "The Stop Rush Campaign," and talk show hosts Liddy, Hannity and Limbaugh all talked about the threat on their radio shows.
As a result, thousands of their listeners and other concerned Americans contacted Congress directly or through a special web site set up by ATR at stopmmediaregulation.org.
The e-mails and letters from grassroots conservatives helped turn the tide in a key Senate vote on Sept. 16, when supporters of deregulation were able to muster 40 votes against a "Resolution of Disapproval" of the Bush FCC's actions -- more than enough votes to sustain a presidential veto.
The battle is far from over. Congressional liberals are continuing to look for ways to pass a bill that would use regulations to stifle conservative media, and could bring something to the floor in the next few weeks.
The Left's regulatory attack doesn't stop with rolling back the FCC's decision.
U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., one of the lead sponsors of media regulation, recently said, "We are trying to fight this battle on a number of fronts."
Hinchey outlined the full liberal agenda, including the reinstatement of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" President Reagan disposed of in 1987.
A restoration of the fairness doctrine would force stations to balance popular conservative talk show host like Rush Limbaugh with liberal commentators -- even if those liberals have little or no following, imposing unnecessary costs on station owners. The alternative, of course, would be for station owners to take popular -- and revenue generating -- conservative talk shows off the air.
The effort to roll back deregulation is supported by a "Who's Who" of prominent liberals, including former president Bill Clinton, New York Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
Also on the bandwagon are U.S. Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., and Barney Frank, D-Mass. Off Capitol Hill, the liberal groups backing the un-deregulation of the airwaves include the ultra-liberal National Organization for Women, People for the American Way, MoveOn.Org, and Common Cause.
In support of deregulation are such prominent conservative leaders and organizations as Grover Norquist of ATR, Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, David Keene of the ACU, and Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth.
Deregulation of mass media has resulted in a dramatic increase of conservative voices on TV and radio. Instead of competing with better ideas, the Left wants to re-regulate the media and stifle conservative voices. Listeners to talk radio have shown that they are not easily pushed around. If they continue to make themselves heard on Capitol Hill, they might be able to defeat this liberal scheme to hijack the airwaves.
-- Richard Lessner is the executive director of the American Conservative Union.
-- United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues.