Robert D. Mather, Ph.D.

TheConservativeSocialPsychologist.com
The Landscape and Recent History of Conservative Media in the United States

When I was a kid, every day we had an old black and silver radio in the kitchen. We ate breakfasts, lunches, and dinners together as a family and listened to the radio for the first two meals of the day. Eventually TVs became affordable enough to have more than one in the house, so we put a small one in the kitchen when I was a teenager. For many years of my childhood, fellow Oklahoman Paul Harvey captured my attention with his greeting of “Stand by for news” and signed my lunches off with “Paul Harvey, Good Day!” And of course, Harvey’s The Rest of the Story radio segments and books were family favorites. I was listening to the forerunner of a modern conservative media explosion of talk radio, cable television, podcasts, and websites. 

 

The Fairness Doctrine Era

At the time I was listening to Paul Harvey on the radio, the Fairness Doctrine was in place. The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to present both sides of a public issue. The Fairness Doctrine was in effect from 1949 until Ronald Reagan had it repealed in 1987. During this this time period, conservative giant William F. Buckley was the strongest conservative voice, having founded National Review in 1955. Buckley’s TV show Firing Line ran from 1966-1999 and he also wrote the classic books God and Man at Yale (1951) and Up from Liberalism (1959).

 

The Classics of the New Era

The year after the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, Rush Limbaugh’s radio show became nationally syndicated in 1988, but had been in Sacramento since 1984. Limbaugh had a popular TV show that was produced by Roger Ailes from 1992-1996. His TV show warmed conservative audiences up for the launch of Fox News in 1996, for which Roger Ailes was the first CEO. Britt Hume, who had served for 23 years at ABC News and as the chief White House Correspondent from 1989-1996, and Bill O’Reilly, who had served at both CBS and ABC News, gave Fox News immediate legitimacy.

 

Bill O’Reilly hosted The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News from 1996-2017. Sean Hannity started at Fox News in 1996 with Hannity & Colmes and maintains his TV show Hannity as well as his popular radio show The Sean Hannity Show. Laura Ingraham’s radio show ran from 2001-2018 and her Fox News show The Ingraham Angle has run since 2017.

 

Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes operated The Weekly Standard from 1995-2018. The neo-conservative publication faltered with conservative audiences after Donald Trump’s 2016 election and Bill Kristol’s Never Trump position.

 

Matt Drudge created The Drudge Report website in 1995. One of his staff members, Andrew Breitbart, went on to found Breitbart.com in 2005. Breitbart’s site helped launch the conservative media careers of several notables including Dana Loesch, Larry O’Connor, Ben Shapiro, and Kurt Schlichter.

 

Glenn Beck’s radio show launched in 2000 with national syndication following in 2002. His TV show ran on CNN (2006-2008) and Fox News (2009-2011). He launched his own independent media platform The Blaze in 2011.

 

Larry Elder’s show has been around since the early 1990’s, morphing back and forth from TV to Radio.

 

The Best of the Neophytes

The Federalist was founded in 2013 and includes the notable Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway. Townhall.com was founded in 1995 and has had a resurgence in the past few years, with notable writers Katie Pavlich, Larry O’Connor, and Kurt Schlichter. RedState.com was founded in 2004 and has also seen a recent surge of popularity. Conservative Review was founded in 2014 and is now owned by Blaze Media, with Mark Levin as the editor. Levin’s radio show has been aired since 2002 and his Fox News TV show since 2017.

 

The Dispatch was founded in 2019 by former National Review writer Jonah Goldberg and features Senior Editor David French, also a former National Review writer. The Dispatch leans more towards libertarians and Never Trumpers. The Hill was founded in 1994 and features Joe Concha. The Washington Examiner was founded in 2005 and features Byron York as the Chief Political Correspondent.

 

There are several new conservative leaning TV networks. One America News was founded in 2013 and features Alex Salvi and Graham Ledger. Newsmax started as a website in 1998 and launched its TV channel Newsmax TV in 2014, recently adding Sean Spicer to their lineup.

 

There are many conservative personalities that have podcasts of their radio shows, or just stand-alone podcasts. Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire hosts The Ben Shapiro Show. Ted Cruz and Michael Knowles host The Verdict, which became the number one podcast in America when it launched during the Senate Impeachment Hearings in January of 2020. Stacy Washington’s Stacy on The Right podcast is also growing in popularity.

 

These conservative media outlets offer a wide variety of perspectives and differing views on many issues. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 created an opportunity for conservatives to test their ideas in the marketplace. Platforms such as radio, television, independent websites, YouTube channels, internet radio, and podcasts have all allowed conservatives a chance to be heard and to display an arrange of voices. 

 

Further Reading

Hanson, V. D. (2020, February 11). Limbaugh: A genius at radio National Review (online).

Mather, R. D. (2016, June 3). Fox News and American politics since 1994. Psychology Today (online).

Mather, R. D. (2016, December 20). God and man on AM Radio. Psychology Today (online).

Rosenwald, B. (2019). Talk radio’s America: How an industry took over a political party that took over the United States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)