Harkin: Bring Back the Fairness Doctrine

Wednesday, 11 Feb 2009 09:55 PM

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U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is pushing for return of the Fairness Doctrine even as some of his Democratic colleagues are quietly backing off the idea.

Originally instituted in 1949 by the FCC, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters over the public airwaves to give equal time to opposing political views.

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.

In an interview with liberal radio host Bill Press, Harkin lauded a Feb. 8 Washington Post Op-Ed in which Press lamented the poor showing of “progressive” voices in the radio marketplace. The public airwaves should reflect a “diversity” of opinion, Press wrote, even if listeners don’t choose to seek out those opinions when given the chance.

The exchange, as first reported by Politico:

HARKIN: Well, anytime – just let me know Bill. I love being with you, and thanks again for all you do to get the truth and the facts out there. By the way, I read your Op-Ed in the Washington Post the other day. I ripped it out, I took it into my office and said 'there you go, we gotta get the Fairness Doctrine back in law again.'

PRESS: Alright, well good for you. You know, we gotta work on that, because they are just shutting down progressive talk from one city after another. All we want is, you know, some balance on the airwaves, that's all. You know, we're not going to take any of the conservative voices off the airwaves, but just make sure that there are a few progressives and liberals out there, right?

HARKIN: Exactly, and that's why we need the fair -- that's why we need the Fairness Doctrine back.

PRESS: We'll work on that together. Hey, thanks, Senator! Always good to talk to you.

Now that they control all branches of government, Democrats have talked up introducing legislation to bring back the doctrine. But so far, they have yet to act. Most recently, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan has called for hearings on the doctrine. But after being lambasted for a solid week on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, an aide told Politico that no hearings were planned.

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