Banning The Fairness Doctrine

Congressman Mike Pence has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from bringing back the so-called Fairness Doctrine without Congressional approval:

WASHINGTON – A Republican lawmaker wants to forestall any potential reversal of federal rules that allow talk radio to broadcast one side of an issue without an opposing viewpoint.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., announced Wednesday that he plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would prevent any future president or the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, the FCC regulation that aimed to ensure that controversial issues broadcast on the airwaves were balanced and fair with contrasting points of view. The rule was revoked in 1985.

“There’s nothing fair about the Fairness Doctrine,” said Pence, a former syndicated talk radio host.

“Bringing back the Fairness Doctrine would amount to nothing more than government control over political views expressed on the public awareness and it must not be allowed to occur,” Pence said on the House floor.

Pence’s bill is meant as a pre-emptive strike against a growing backlash in Congress over the dominance of conservative hosts on talk radio. Some Democrats have expressed interest in reinstating the FCC requirement so as to force balance between conservative and liberal hosts on the airwaves.

Given what has been coming out of Washington lately, a law like this is long overdue:

The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said he believes Americans want to hear opposing viewpoints.

“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” Durbin said in a report in The Hill newspaper. “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein told “FOX News Sunday” that she was reviewing the Fairness Doctrine because “talk radio is overwhelmingly one way.”

“In my view, talk radio tends to be one-sided. It also tends to be dwelling in hyperbole. It’s explosive. It pushes people to, I think, extreme views without a lot of information,” said Feinstein, D-Calif.

And there have been similar comments from John Kerry:

Senator John Kerry is calling for reimposition of the fairness doctrine.

In a radio interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, excerpted on YouTube , Senator Kerry said he thought the doctrine should return. Calling it one of the “most profound changes in the balance of the media,” he said conservatives have been able to “squeeze down and sqeeze out opinion of opposing views. I think it has been a very important transition in the imbalance of our public dialog,” he said.

Kerry joins what appears to be a growing Democratic push-back against conservative talk radio, which flowered after the FCC in 1987 declared that the doctrine was unconstitutional. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has called for the doctrine’s return, and Senator Diane Feinstein 9D-Calif,) says she is looking into it.

And here’s the YouTube piece:

Bush is a disaster, but thank God that guy never became President.

  • trumpetbob15

    Hmmm…I guess I must have been at college too long. Not having to hear the views of the wacko Left? Where do I sign up? By the way, if conservatives dominate the radio, how come Kerry was able to be a guest? Just wondering.

  • Robert Standard

    This would suggest quite strongly that the Democrat Party is the enemy of freedom and of all libertarians.

    I do not hear any Republicans proposing such fairness legislation.

    Why does Liberty Papers not acknowledge the Republican opposition to the anti-freedom of speech so-called Fairness Doctrine?

  • Doug Mataconis


    You’re right, the Democrats are behind this one, and it’s a strong argument against any kind of libertarian movement to the Democratic Party.

    At the same time, the GOP’s record on countless issues of concern to people who value freedom is pretty awful as well.