Today’s right wing media has a long history that is largely unknown to its current listeners. In The Radio Right: How a Band of Broadcasters Took on the Federal Government and Built the Modern Conservative Movement
(Oxford University Press, 2020), Paul Matzko
details its emergence in the 1950s and the response to its rise by some of the leading political and religious institutions of the era.
As Matzko explains, the origins of postwar conservative media lay in the broader changes taking place in broadcasting in 1950s. As the major networks shifted their focus from radio to television, local radio stations were eager to find programmers willing to pay to put programs on the air. This gave conservative religious broadcasters such as Carl McIntire and Billy James Hargis an opportunity to spread their message to a nationwide audience. Fearing the growing influence of commentators organizing against their policies, the Kennedy administration sought to use such means as the previously underdeveloped Fairness Doctrine to constrain it. Working in conjunction with the National Council of Churches, they placed growing pressure on the broadcasters – particularly the acerbic McIntire – in an ultimately successful effort to undermine their nationwide stature. Yet while McIntire’s radio ministry was gone by the early 1970s, his example was followed a decade later by others who took advantage of broadcast deregulation in the late 1970s and 1980s to launch the modern era of conservative broadcasting.