Tags: pelosi | durbin | amendment

Pelosi Backs Talk Radio Regulations

Sunday, 08 Mar 2009 06:27 PM

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is supporting legislation that will force the Federal Communications Commission to “promote diversity” on the airwaves – a move many see as a stealth effort to regulate conservative-dominated talk radio without bringing back the controversial Fairness Doctrine.

Pelosi, D-Calif., has thrown her support to an amendment in a Senate bill that directs the FCC to explicitly “take actions to encourage and promote diversity in communication media ownership and to ensure that broadcast station licenses are used in the public interest,” according to CNS News.

The amendment has become known as the Durbin amendment, after its sponsor, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

“Certainly, I support Mr. Durbin in most things,” Pelosi told CNS News. “Diversity in media ownership is very, very, important.”

The amendment is clearly an attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine – an unpopular FCC regulation removed in 1987 that forced broadcasters to grant equal airtime to opposing political viewpoints, Republican Rep. Mike Pence told CNS News.

“Its clear to me that Democrats, having failed in their frontal assault on talk radio in America through the Fairness Doctrine, are now shifting strategy to a form of regulation that is essentially the Fairness Doctrine by stealth,” Pence, R-Ind., a former radio broadcaster, told CNS.

Minutes after the passage of the Durbin amendment last Thursday a separate amendment that would ban the restoration of the Fairness Doctrine, which was proposed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), was also attached to the same D.C. voting rights bill and passed by a vote of 87-11.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he thinks Republicans may be able to muster the votes to stop it when it gets to his chamber.

“I think as we get into the appropriations process you will see us continue our effort to make sure the Fairness Doctrine is not put back into place,” Boehner told CNS News at his weekly press conference on Thursday. “And I do believe the votes are in the Congress to make sure that happens.”

The primary text of the Durbin amendment reads:

SEC.9 FCC Authorities. (a) Clarification of General Powers. – Title III of the Communications Act of 1934 is amended by inserting after section 303 (47 U.S.C. 303) the following new section:

SEC.303B. Clarification of General Powers. (a) Certain Affirmative Actions Required – The Commission shall take actions to encourage and promote diversity in communication media ownership and to ensure that broadcast station licenses are used in the public interest. …

The language is virtually identical to a policy position that has been long developed by Democrats and has been recently taken up by the Obama administration over calls by some to revive the Fairness Doctrine. The White House now aims to “encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum.”

That philosophy is part of a position established earlier at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank headed by former Obama transition leader John Podesta. The center published a report calling for a new “localism” and “ownership diversity” regulations to balance conservative talk radio with so-called “progressive” talk radio.

The report, “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio,” concludes with the following recommendations:

“[A]ny effort to encourage more responsive and balanced radio programming will first require steps to increase localism and diversify radio station ownership to better meet local and community needs. We suggest three ways to accomplish this:

  • Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations.

  • Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing.

  • Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting.”

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