President-elect Barack Obama has designated former Federal Communications Commissioner Henry Rivera to head the team that will select the next FCC chairman — an Obama move that bodes poorly for conservative talk radio.
That’s because Rivera is widely believed to support the reinstitution of the so-called Fairness Doctrine.
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.
Rivera served on the five-member FCC from 1981 to 1985 under Republican chairman Mark Fowler. His departure paved the way for the Fairness Doctrine’s repeal when President Ronald Reagan replace him with an opponent of the doctrine, Brian Maloney disclosed on his Web site The Radio Equalizer.
The FCC admitted before the repeal that the doctrine "had the net effect of reducing rather than enhancing the discussion of controversial issues of public importance."
Rivera is a partner at the Washington law firm Wiley Rein, headed by former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley. He “is expected to lead the push to dismantle commercial talk radio that is favored by a number of Democratic Party senators,” Maloney wrote.
“Rivera will play a pivotal role in preventing critics from having a public voice during Obama’s tenure in office.”
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