DeMint to Force Vote on Fairness Doctrine

Thursday, 19 Feb 2009 06:49 PM

By Jim Meyers

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Sen. Jim DeMint announced that he will force a vote next week on a bill that prevents the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

The South Carolina Republican’s bill, the Broadcaster Freedom Act, is co-sponsored by John Thune, R-S.D., and 27 others and will be offered as an amendment to the D.C. Voting Rights bill.

President Barack Obama is opposed to any move to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, spokesman Ben LaBolt said Wednesday.

But as Sen. DeMint notes in a statement, some Democrats in Congress have indicated that they would support a reinstatement.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, asked in a recent interview if she favored reinstatement, said: “I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else — I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves.”

Back in June, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by John Gizzi of Human Events if she personally supported the revival of the Fairness Doctrine, and she declared: “Yes.”

As recently as last week, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa said in an interview: “We need the Fairness Doctrine back.”

Sen. DeMint stated: "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.

“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?"

Originally instituted in 1949 by the FCC, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters using the public airwaves to give equal time to opposing political views. The FCC repealed the measure in 1987.

Since talk radio is overwhelmingly dominated by conservative hosts, and liberal talk radio draws few listeners, the “equal time” provision would likely force many radio stations to pull popular conservative hosts from the air rather than air low-rated liberal hosts.

The Broadcaster Freedom Act has also been introduced in the House and currently has 177 co-sponsors.

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