Some Dems Balk At Return Of Fairness Doctrine
Conservatives plan strategy to block feared reimposition of defunct FCC broadcast rule
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/7/2008 6:25:00 AM
A pair of Maryland Democratic representatives this week tried to take some of the edge off the growing flap over possible reimposition of the fairness doctrine, the defunct FCC regulation that required stations to air both sides of controversial issues.
In an interview with the CNS News service following Barack Obama's victory Tuesday night, Rep. Ben Cardin said he thought stations should have a balanced approach, but also said there is "more variety today than we have had in recent years," adding, "There is a lot of self-selection here...I think the market, in some respects, is working this out."
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a rising star in the Democratic Party who as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was responsible for getting more Dems election to the House, said that even if Democrats wanted to reimpose the doctrine—he did not say whether or not he wanted them to—technology may have moved beyond that kind of regulation.
"Right now, I think you have such a proliferation of media," he said, that "I think it is increasingly difficult to try and put sort of quotas on political speech over any medium. I think that would be the challenge anyone would face if they wanted to try and do that...As far as I know it will not be the first order of business if it is ever part of the agenda."
Asked if he would support reimposition of the rule, which was jettisoned as unconstitutional in 1987 and is credited with the rise of conservative talk radio, Cardin did not rule out some review of media coverage. "I don't think we're going to get to it in the manner in which you are explaining it," he said. "I think we do look at making sure that our system is not biased..."
CNS is headed by Brent Bozell, who, according to CNS, met with about 20 other conservative leaders in Virginia Thursday to talk about the way forward, including the Democrats possible reimposition of the fairness doctrine.
Barack Obama’s campaign has told B&C he does not support reimposing the doctrine, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not taken it off the table. Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) fanned the flames this week when he said that the same people who say the FCC should be able to regulate "pornography" on the air don't want it to intervene to promote fairness and balance, calling that inconsistent and suggesting that the government had a role in insuring balance.
Bozell's Parents Television Council has been a leading voice for tougher FCC regulation of TV content, including generating complaints about the Janet Jackson Super Bowl reveal on CBS and swearing on Fox, the latter the subject of oral argument in the Supreme Court this week.
The internet changes everything. If statist libs like Pelosi tried to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine, the conserv strategy is to threaten to make the internet subject to the doctrine, which would kill the free expression of tought and ideas on what already has become the most ubiquitous form of "broadcasting" on earth. Of course, broadcasting, even with new DTV channels, still is the most mass of mass media and still has a comparative few channels, when compared to the internet.
But as I write this, I'm tuned into CNN -- via my internet connection. The Fairness Doctrine will never be reimposed, thanks to the internet. The issue seems to be a red herring and Schumer is simply out of touch with today's telecom environment. Obama managed to get elected without the Fairness Doctrine. Schumer should be as concerned with restoring Americans' civil liberties as he is with getting a fair shake on talk radio.
Adam Smith - 11/7/2008 12:30:00 PM EST
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