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Talk Radio: America’s Last Best Hope Out of this Mess

| January 11, 2021

By Phil Boyce
Senior VP of Spoken Word
Salem Radio Network

NEW YORK — We all know it. We are in a mess in America. The battle lines are drawn, and if this isn’t a civil war without bullets, I am not sure what one would look like. One side wants to crush the other. Each side believes the other side wants to destroy America. The left vision for what America can be is drastically different than what the right sees and desires. Gone are the pretenses of fairness. This is a mess.

There is one institution left standing that can potentially be the best hope to save America from utter collapse. Talk radio is that institution. Since the fairness doctrine was abandoned as a failure in 1987 under President Reagan, talk radio has become the barometer of what is right and wrong with America. In many ways, talk radio is the pressure valve on this giant pressure cooker that is set to blow at any moment. This pressure valve allows both sides to debate the issues without exploding. We don’t need the fairness doctrine, talk radio is the fairness doctrine.

Every talk show host I know relishes the caller who wants to disagree with him or her. Every phone screener I know is instructed by the host to move those disagreeable callers to the front of the line. This is not to beat them up, but to give the host an opportunity for debate. Hosts LOVE to debate what they believe with the other side. I instruct our hosts to treat those negative callers like radio gold. If you can win one of them over, you have scored a great victory.

This is NOT what the left loves to do. They do all they can to stifle disagreement, and cancel out anybody on the conservative side that might disagree with them, or the status quo. But talk radio exists to shatter that model, and it is the last best hope for honest debate in America.

This is better than FOX News, Newsmax or OANN because they don’t take live listener calls. They might occasionally have a pundit representing the opposite view, but that pundit is never an ordinary American. Talk radio reaches those ordinary Americans and gives them a platform. It’s true the host is not going to let them win, but they will be able to state their case. It’s how we have to get ourselves out of this current mess.

There are a few things obvious about talk radio that work in our favor. Let me lay them out for you on the left who may not really listen to us:

  • There is no racism in talk radio. We have black conservatives who can articulate their positions with grace, class and intelligence. We have black listeners who have become regular callers. Hispanics are calling us more than ever. Most importantly, we don’t tolerate racist comments on the part of hosts. Any host who was prone to that kind of rhetoric has been banished from the airwaves. I honestly do not know of one single racist host on the air. The accusation that  talk radio is racist comes with NO examples. There are none.
  • There are no anti-Semites in talk radio. If there ever were any, they have been banished years ago. We have more Jewish listeners than ever, and any host who might make an anti-Semitic comment is gone. I recently had a listener send me a picture of one of those who stormed the capitol with an anti-Semitic slogan on his shirt. He implied that talk radio must be pleased with this. The opposite is true. Talk radio is perhaps the biggest institutional supporter of Israel that exists. Some of the strongest and brightest conservative minds like Dennis Prager are proudly professing Jews. Joel Pollack, Sr. Editor at Breitbart, and Ben Shapiro, talk show host and writer, are proud conservative Jews. The idea that talk radio is anti-Semitic is simply a myth.
  • Nobody I know in talk radio incites violence. The whole existence of talk radio relies on the free and fair exchange of words and ideas. No host I know encourages anybody to take up arms or physically fight the enemy. It almost seems ridiculous for me to say it, because no example exists of any hosts encouraging violence. To say you have to fight for what you believe in does not mean physical violence. It describes the attitude with which to take on this culture war.

How Can Talk Radio Be A Leader and Help Solve This Mess?

I encourage every host to think of the following basic principles before you ever open the mic:

  1. Understand that those who would love to silence you will take anything you say out of context and try to drag you through the mud. Make sure everything you say can withstand that kind of scrutiny. Add a disclaimer to what you say to make sure there is no opportunity to distort.
  2. Recognize your unique opportunity to turn this thing around. You won’t do it by getting in a screaming match. You do it by making your argument in a calm and articulate way, using facts and logic. Always be hoping that somebody on the left is listening with an open mind and you have the chance to bring them over from the dark side.
  3. Encourage callers who disagree and move them to the top of the caller bank, not to beat them up but to learn how they think. Persuade them with logic. Help them think. Some of the best conservatives I know used to be lefties who woke up and smelled the coffee.
  4. You are the greatest teacher many of your listeners will ever hear. This is your opportunity to create true learning about the issues of the day. Your students are ready to soak this up, and some of them may be liberal. Educate both sides about the greatness of America. We have to be the antidote to the indoctrination our kids have been getting since they were kindergartners. It’s up to you.
  5. Have some fun. I know all of this can get depressing and it represents a sad chapter in American history. Recognize this is all this is. A chapter. Let’s make it a short one, and get back to the good chapters as soon as we can.

Talk radio is the answer to this mess in America. I am firmly convinced that we are ready to embark on the golden age of talk radio. With other platforms in jeopardy, and the culture war raging around us, more listeners than ever are turning to us for answers. Let’s not let this historic opportunity pass us by.


Phil Boyce is SVP/Spoken Word Format, Salem Media Group and Salem Radio Network, 
Operations VP – New York Region. He can be emailed at: 

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