By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) announced that he will force a vote next week on a bill that prevents the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.
The Broadcaster Freedom Act, sponsored by Sen. DeMint, John Thune (R-SD) and 27 others, will be offered as an amendment to the D.C. Voting Rights bill next week. The bill was introduced last month and will prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.
Although a spokesman for President Barack Obama said the administration would not pursue a revival of the repealed Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters using the public airwaves to give equal time to opposing political views, Sen. DeMint says it’s time for Senate Democrats to go on the record one way or the other.
“I’m glad President Obama finally confirmed his opposition to the Fairness Doctrine, which attacks the right of free speech on talk radio, but many Democrats in Congress are still pushing it,” the Senator said.
“With the support of the new administration, now is the time for Congress to take a stand against this kind of censorship. I intend to seek a vote on this amendment next week so every senator is on record: Do you support free speech or do you want to silence voices you disagree with?”
In 1985, the FCC determined that the Fairness Doctrine was no longer necessary due to the emergence of a “multiplicity of voices in the marketplace.” The FCC was also of the view that the Fairness Doctrine may have violated the First Amendment. In a 1987 case, the courts declared that the doctrine was not mandated by Congress and the FCC did not have to continue to enforce it. Twice, Congress has passed legislation restoring the Fairness Doctrine, but Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush vetoed the bills.
Although the Obama administration has come out publicly saying they would not pursue the Fairness Doctrine, several prominent Democrats have recently come out in favor of the Doctrine.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D-MI) said it was “absolutely time to pass a standard.” Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-IA) said “We need the Fairness Doctrine back.”
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) also voiced his support for the censorship doctrine during an interview for KOB Radio in Albuquerque.
“I would want this station and all stations to have to present a balanced perspective and different points of view instead of always hammering away at one side of the political [spectrum],” Sen. Bingaman said.
Political talk would not be the only victim of the Fairness Doctrine. Christian radio is also threatened by a return to these standards. Recently, Republican politicians and Christian radio industry experts warned that a revival of the Fairness Doctrine would make Christian radio the most vulnerable since there is already judicial precedence supporting the FCC authority to regulate it.
The Broadcaster Freedom Act has also been introduced in the House where it currently has 177 co-sponsors.
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