Bozell Calls Out Copps Over Fairness Doctrine Issue

Media Research Center President challenged Copps to support an up or down vote of Broadcaster Freedom Act in House

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell called out acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps over the issue of the Fairness Doctrine.

In a speech to a Free Press media reform forum last week, Copps said that the doctrine was not coming back, but he also called it a phony issue and echoed comments he had made earlier that those who connected the fairness doctrine with efforts to boost minority ownership and diversity were "issue mongering".

The fairness doctrine, which the FCC scrapped as unconstitutional in 1987, required broadcasters to seek out oppopsing viewpoints on issues of public importance.

In a posting on the center's Web site Tuesday, Bozell challenged Copps to support an up or down vote on the Broadcaster Freedom Act in the House. The bill, which would bar reimpostition of the doctrine by the FCC, passed the Senate in late February.

In the online call-out to Copps, Bozell said: “I am most appreciative that my friend – FCC Chairman Michael Copps – has no intention of reinstating the anti-First Amendment so-called ‘Fairness’ Doctrine. But his statement that those of us concerned about its reimposition are ‘issue mongering’ ‘conspiracy theorists’ is off-base given the stated desires of so many members of Congress."

He listed 17 legislators who he said have recently called for the doctrine's return, and "reminded" Copps that he would soon be joined by as many as four new commissioners who might vote to reinstate the doctrine. Certainly that would not be the case if Robert McDowell remained on the commission, since he has also warned of its resurrection in another form.

"Chairman Copps should call on House Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader [Harry] Reid to allow a full, fair stand-alone vote on the Broadcaster Freedom Act. That way we will know once and for all how each member of Congress thinks – are they for free speech, or are they for the ‘Fairness’ Doctrine?”
The president has said on several occasions he does not support the doctrine's return, but some conservatives are worried that the FCC's localism proposals, including community boards consulting on what programming broadcasters should air in the public interest, could be a form of fairness doctrine lite.