Tags: fairness | doctrine | radio

Democrats Look to Muzzle Conservative Radio

Friday, 06 Feb 2009 10:36 AM

By Jim Meyers

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Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she wants hearings on “accountability” in radio, suggesting Democrats are eying a return of the Fairness Doctrine.

During an interview with Stabenow, syndicated radio host Bill Press said conservatives should not be the only voices heard on talk radio and asked the Michigan lawmaker: “So, is it time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine?”

Stabenow responded: “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.

“Our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.”

Press — former chairman of the California Democratic Party — asked: “Can we count on you to push for some hearings in the Senate this year, to bring these owners in and hold them accountable?”

Stabenow said: “I have already had some discussions with colleagues and, you know, I feel like that’s going to happen.”

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 The FCC repealed the measure in 1987.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.

Michael Calderone of Politico.com, commenting on Stabenow’s remarks, wrote: “Although Obama has been publicly opposed to reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, conservative radio has talked nonstop about the fear of it returning (or perhaps something like it with another name) while there’s a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in Congress.”

Bill Press wrote on his Web site: “I’m not a big fan of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. But if station owners won’t act on their own to offer a mix of voices on the radio, this Congress and this new administration will find a way to force them to do so. And the sooner, the better.”

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