Although a spokesman for President Barack Obama said the administration wouldn’t pursue the revival of the Fairness Doctrine, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, S.C., wants Senate Democrats to go on the record one way or another on the issue.
DeMint, chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, said on Feb. 19 he will offer the Broadcaster Freedom Act as an amendment to the D.C. Voting Rights bill next week. The Broadcaster Freedom Act was introduced by Republican lawmakers last month and prevents the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.
“I’m glad President Obama finally confirmed his opposition to the Fairness Doctrine, which attacks the right of free speech on talk radio, but many Democrats in Congress are still pushing it,” DeMint said. “With the support of the new administration, now is the time for Congress to take a stand against this kind of censorship. I intend to seek a vote on this amendment next week so every senator is on record: Do you support free speech or do you want to silence voices you disagree with?”
In 1985, the FCC determined that the Fairness Doctrine was no longer necessary due to the emergence of a “multiplicity of voices in the marketplace.” The FCC was also of the view that the Fairness Doctrine may have violated the First Amendment. In a 1987 case, the courts declared that the doctrine was not mandated by Congress and the FCC did not have to continue to enforce it. Twice, Congress has passed legislation restoring the Fairness Doctrine, but Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush vetoed the bills.
Although the Obama administration has come out publicly saying they would not pursue the Fairness Doctrine, several prominent Democrats have. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said it was “absolutely time to pass a standard.” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, came out with a similar message, saying, “We need the Fairness Doctrine back.” And former President Bill Clinton said, “You either ought to have the Fairness Doctrine or we ought to have more balance on the other side.”
Perhaps one of the more egregious examples came from Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., in an interview with Jim Villanucci for KOB Radio in Albuquerque, N.M.
“I would want this station and all stations to have to present a balanced perspective and different points of view instead of always hammering away at one side of the political [spectrum],” Bingaman said last October.
Another potential victim of the Fairness Doctrine, beyond political talk, is Christian radio. Republican politicians and Christian radio industry experts recently warned the revival of the Fairness Doctrine would make Christian radio the most vulnerable since there is already judicial precedence supporting the FCC authority to regulate it.