Sunday February 25, 2018
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Six-part documentary ...

... analyzing Milwaukee Conservative talk radio as a microcosm of the genre’s impact on American politics, media and culture.

HomeWatch the Movie /  4: Vanguard of the Fifth Estate
Part 4
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Vanguard of the Fifth Estate

With the lifting of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, regulation of the broadcast media was now largely in the hands of the free market. Radio programmers were free to give the people what they wanted.

Almost immediately, listeners were flocking to a new kind of bold and boisterous political talk by a guy named Rush Limbaugh. In Milwaukee, Mark Belling brought a similar style of radio to bear on local politicians and issues.

In addition to overt Conservatism, Limbaugh and Belling introduced their audiences to something else rarely encountered on the air under the reign of the Fairness Doctrine: the indictment of the traditional media for abusing the trust of the American people by claiming the authority of "journalistic objectivity" when in fact it had long since abandoned the practice. To validate the claim, Limbaugh, Belling and the legion of Conservative talkers that have followed pride themselves on discussing items unreported or underreported in the mainstream media.

For better or worse, the notion of "Liberal media bias" is now part of the American consciousness.

But is Liberal media bias real, and if so, so what? What is the danger of having an ostensibly free and objective press reflexively favor one political ideology over another? And to what extent does a media so monolithic in worldview that it fails to report accurately or fully the issues that affect lives and communities put the general population at risk?

Across the country and here in Milwaukee, Conservative talk radio has taken it upon itself to answer these questions - a watchdog on the watchdogs - incurring the scorn and derision of a once nearly omnipotent media establishment.

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