A case illustrates why politicians like talkback radio. By going on talkback they can appear to be available in an open and unstructured forum, reaching out over the heads of the media to constituents. But far from being open and unmediated, talkback is a highly controlled and contrived forum. Guests like John Howard have the last word, and talkback hosts, Jon Faine included, make sure that they get it. As quantity always seems to win out over quality in mainstream radio, and brevity over depth, the emphasis is on giving as many callers as possible the chance to ask a question. The result is a few rushed seconds of questioning from the caller and a couple of minutes of spin in return from the politician, with no chance for the caller to push the issue further.
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