Washington

President Says He Would Veto Fairness-Doctrine Imposition

President George W. Bush Speaks to National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville, Tenn. 3/11/2008 09:25:00 AM Eastern

In a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville, Tenn., President George W. Bush said he supported a Republican move to force an up or down vote on a bill that would prevent the reimposition of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, then vowed to veto any congressional attempt to reinstate it.

President George W. Bush

That's according to the office of former talk-radio host and Republican Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who was the driving force behind the Fairness Doctrine-blocking bill, the Broadcaster Freedom Act.

Pence was in the audience and his office e-mailed a portion of the president's speech to reporters (the excerpt is printed below).

The president cited a congressional effort to bring back the doctrine, which required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues of public importance. The Federal Communications Commission threw out the doctrine in 1987.

Congress tried to reinstate it, but President Ronald Reagan vetoed that bill. Some Democrats have complained about the fall of the doctrine and the rise of conservative talk radio, but Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommitee, which oversees the FCC, has said there are no plans to reinstate it.

The president said those wishing the doctrine's return are targeting talkers like Rush Limbaugh or religious broadcaster James Dobson (Focus on the Family).

He called on Congress to support a so-called discharge petition, which would require an up or down vote on Pence's bill, saying that nearly every Republican had signed it and they only needed 24 more signatures.

And evoking Reagan's stand against the doctrine, Bush said: "I urge other members to join in this discharge petition. But I'll tell you this: If Congress should ever pass any legislation that stifles your right to express your views, I'm going to veto it.”

According to the president:

"[T]here's an effort afoot that would jeopardize your right to express your views on public airways. Some members of Congress want to reinstate a regulation that was repealed 20 years ago. It has the Orwellian name called the Fairness Doctrine. Supporters of this regulation say we need to mandate that any discussion of so-called controversial issues on the public airwaves includes equal time for all sides. This means that many programs wanting to stay on the air would have to meet Washington's definition of balance. Of course, for some in Washington, the only opinions that require balancing are the ones they don't like (laughter and applause).”

“We know who these advocates of so-called balance really have in their sights: shows hosted by people like Rush Limbaugh or James Dobson, or many of you here today. By insisting on so-called balance, they want to silence those they don't agree with. The truth of the matter is, they know they cannot prevail in the public debate of ideas. They don't acknowledge that you are the balance; that you give voice (applause). The country should not be afraid of the diversity of opinions. After all, we're strengthened by diversity of opinions.”

“If Congress truly supports the free and open exchange of ideas, then there is a way they can demonstrate that right now. Republicans have drafted legislation that would ban reinstatement of the so-called Fairness Doctrine. Unfortunately, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives have blocked action on this bill. So in response, nearly every Republican in the House has signed onto what's called a 'discharge petition,' which would require Congress to hold an up or down vote on the ban. Supporters of this petition are only 24 signatures away.”

“I do want to thank Mike Pence, who is with us today, and Congressman Greg Walden [R-Ore.], for pressing this effort and defending the right for people to express themselves freely. And I urge other members to join in this discharge petition. But I'll tell you this: If Congress should ever pass any legislation that stifles your right to express your views, I'm going to veto it (applause).”

 

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