House Democrats have labeled the reintroduction of the FCC's fairness doctrine a non-issue and grandstanding by talk radio, but on Friday Senate Democrats blocked an amendment to an appropriations bill similar to one that passed without incident in the House.
Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) tried Friday to amend a defense appropriations bill to insure that the FCC could not reinstate the doctrine. Scrapped by the FCC as unconstitutional in 1987, the doctrine required broadcasters to provide the other side on issues of public importance. It's disappearance from the FCC rulebook helped spur the rise of primarily conservative talk radio.
But Coleman's attempt was blocked in a procedural move by Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Senate Democrats have been most vocal about bringing back the doctrine.
“In this day and age, reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine is not about equal balance, as its supporters claim, it is about muzzling broadcasters," said Coleman on his Web site. "I believe it is a dangerous proposition for the government to be in the business of rationing free speech and determining what is fair. At the very least, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle should have allowed this amendment to be debated.”