Will: Obama Victory Would Bring Fairness Doctrine Back
Op-ed in The Washington Post warns that a Democratic-controlled Congress would 'reinstate the misnamed Fairness Doctrine.'
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/18/2008 8:12:00 AM
The return of the Fairness Doctrine continues to be invoked as an argument against giving Democrats more control of the government.
In an op-ed in The Washington Post Thursday, conservative columnist George Will warned that "unless [Sen. John] McCain [R-Ariz.] is president, the government will reinstate the … misnamed Fairness Doctrine."
The doctrine, which was pronounced unconstitutional by the Federal Communications Commission in 1987, required broadcasters to cover both sides of controversial issues. Its decline was matched by the rise of rough-and-tumble political talk radio and the vast majority conservative, led by Rush Limbaugh.
Will sees that format threatened by a Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) administration teamed with a Democratic-controlled Congress, arguing instead for the benefits of divided government. "Liberals, not satisfied with their domination of academia, Hollywood and most of the mainstream media, want to kill talk radio, where liberals have been unable to dent conservative dominance," he wrote.
Obama, via his press secretary, told B&C in June that the candidate does not support reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine and sees the issue as "a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible."
But more recently, a campaign surrogate told a C-SPAN TV audience Obama had not taken a position on the doctrine. In addition, a source in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told B&C in July that he could not rule out a push from House Democrats to bring it back, either in this Congress or the next.
Obama’s lack of active support does not necessarily equate to a veto if the bill were pushed by his Democratic friends in the Senate.
President George W. Bush pledged to veto any attempt to legislatively establish the Fairness Doctrine, and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told B&C in an interview last fall that there were no plans to try to bring it back.
A little over one year ago, the House passed a bill, from Indiana Republican and former radio talker Mike Pence, which put a one-year moratorium on funding any FCC reimposition of the doctrine. Democrats, led by David Obey (D-Wis.), suggested that the amendment was a red herring, a nonissue and that it was being debated, such as it was -- no Democrats stood to oppose it -- to provide sound bites for conservative talkers and "yap yap TV," which had ginned up the issue.
For the record, the President-elect has said he would not bring back the fairness doctorine. However, I think it's maybe time to look at bringing it back. Why? We've reached a point in this country without it that our media marketplace has become segmented. The "I won't listen to your radio station, I have my own" scenario. As a result, or society has become fragmented and we do not listen and talk to each other, we simply go to our own individual corners and yell. Forcing our media outlets to present both sides of an argument (and yes I mean liberal AND conservative) will remind all of us that the other side has a point too and we should try to hear it. I we don't agree with it, at least respect it.
Fred - 11/6/2008 11:14:00 AM EST
I can only hope that he would bring back the fairness doctrine. It would finally bring some intelligent debate back into the political spectrum. Now all you have is the two sides listening to the harping supposed experts on their particular side of the equation and dismissing any rebuttal to their stance as being stupid.
john sikula - 10/7/2008 2:59:00 PM EDT
Of course they will try to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine. They need to silence all opposition. If you don't think they want to silence their opposition and don't believe the statements of senior Democrat leaders in Congress and in the party all you need to do is look at the tactics that Barack Obama has used against WGN when it's had guests he didn't approve of in 2 cases now. It reminds me of a modern version the tactics used in the early 30's in a certain country in Europe and tactics advocated by Woodrow Wilson against his enemies.
Rick Parker - 9/18/2008 2:13:00 PM EDT
Adam, apparently you do not follow the statements of the Democrat leadership if you really believe what you say. Pelosi and Hoyer have both said they support the return of the Fairness Doctrine. Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has even commended the work of Democrats in to reinstate the archaic regulation.
It's far from a red herring. Even the Democrat Party Platform references the need to level the playing field when it comes to broadcast media (a not so veiled threat regarding upcoming regulations).
So, please get your facts straight before you speak for others.
Art Rasputin - 9/18/2008 1:51:00 PM EDT
A red herring and you know it.
IF you want to tell readers how to vote, please write an editorial and don't pick up the kudgel for opinion columnists in your news columns. There is no support in either party for reinstatement of a doctrine that would restrict freedom of speech in a multichannel, multimedia world.
Adam Smith - 9/18/2008 1:05:00 PM EDT
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