Axelrod Says Obama to Discuss Fairness Doctrine

Monday, 16 Feb 2009 03:54 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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An Obama senior adviser has indicated that the administration is mulling whether the controversial Fairness Doctrine will get a new lease on life, according to a report in Broadcasting and Cable.

The now defunct Fairness Doctrine, if revived, could be used by a liberal administration to silence Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other radio talk show hosts, as well as much of the new alternative media. The doctrine required broadcasters to report both sides of controversial issues. The Federal Communications Commission dropped it in 1987.

Asked by Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" whether he would rule out reimposing the doctrine, White House senior adviser David Axelrod responded: “I’m going to leave that issue to Julius Genachowski, our new head of the FCC, and the president to discuss, so I don’t have an answer for you now.”

This soft position is a departure from a much more definitive posture on the doctrine touted during the Obama campaign in June 2008:

“Senator Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters,” press secretary Michael Ortiz said in an e-mail to Broadcasting and Cable at that time.

“He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible,” Ortiz said.

The specter of a return to the doctrine has enjoyed renewed visibility over the last couple of weeks as leading Democrats have been discussing it more and more.

Last week on a radio show, former President Bill Clinton announced that in his opinion something needed to be done to balance broadcasting.

“Well, you either ought to have the fairness doctrine or you ought to have more balance on the other side,” Clinton said, “because essentially there has always been a lot of big money to support the right wing talk shows.”

Clinton targeted the “blatant drumbeat” against the stimulus program from conservative talk radio, saying it doesn’t reflect economic reality, according to Broadcasting and Cable.

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