A trio of Republican legislators, one in the Senate and two in the House, have reintroduced the Broadcast Freedom Act, which would have the effect of keeping the Fairness Doctrine in its coffin. Mike Pence (R-IN), who has been championing this legislation for some time now, is joined by former radio group owner Greg Walden (R-OR) in the House, with Jim DeMint (R-SC) introducing the measure in the Senate.
The bill would simply prevent the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.
The NAB weighed in to support the bill. EVP Dennis Wharton said, "Since the Fairness Doctrine’s elimination in 1987, America has witnessed an absolute explosion in alternative media outlets, providing a rich diversity of viewpoints from all sides of the political spectrum. NAB salutes these lawmakers for their dedication to ensuring Americans have continued access to a free and robust press unfettered from government interference."
“The founders would spin in their graves at the thought of the government censoring speech on many of today’s radio and television stations,” said Walden, whose radio ownership career spanned over 21 years, and whose family was involved small town broadcast family that dating back to the 1930s. “Yet that’s just what some Democratic leaders seem to be after. Whether as a throwback to the old Fairness Doctrine or under a less controversial guise, any effort to exert government control over speech on the airwaves is an insult to the principles behind the First Amendment.”
The bill is said to have 24 co-sponsors, all from the Republican party.
RBR/TVBR observation: With respect to Walden’s comment, we have to say that the founding fathers would have to be filled in on what exactly radio and television are before they could put in some effective grave-spinning time. At any rate, there is still no evidence of any major Democratic effort to put the Fairness Doctrine back in place; indeed, watchdogs such as Common Cause and liberal radio network Air America have even come out against it, and president-elect Barack Obama is widely believed to be against its reinstatement as well. With Democrats in control of the legislative agenda, we suspect this bill will lie dormant for the time being, but it won’t matter as Congress keeps its focus on other issues.