Conservatives Rally to Defeat the Fairness Doctrine

Matt Purple

6/11/2008 5:45:34 PM - Matt Purple

Several high-profile conservatives gathered on Capitol Hill to rally support for the Broadcaster Freedom Act, a measure to block the government from any future attempts to chill political speech on the airwaves.

Specifically, the legislation would kill the Fairness Doctrine, an old Federal Communications Commission policy to require broadcasters must provide equal time to both sides of a debate. Although abolished in 1987, several congressional Democrats have recently expressed interest in renewing the Fairness Doctrine.

“I believe Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have made it clear: Democrats want to bring back censorship in America,” said Representative Michael Pence (R.-Ind.).

The House passed a one-year ban on the Fairness Doctrine by a 309-115 vote last June. The Broadcaster Freedom Act would junk the policy permanently, however, by prohibiting the FCC from regulating broadcast media on the basis of political ideology.

So far, Democratic leaders have refused to bring it to the House floor for a vote.

Republicans interpreted the Democrats’ inaction as indicative of their desire to break the conservatives’ dominance of political talk radio, which began with the end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.

“Now [Democrats] have a new plan: if you can’t beat them, censor them,” remarked L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center.

Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham was more explicit, saying Democrats could have her radio show when they pried it “from [her] cold dead hands.”

“This is nothing more than an attempt to regulate one of the most effective means of communication today and that is radio,” she said.

Congressional Republicans are scrambling for names on a discharge petition, which would force a vote on the Broadcaster Freedom Act. Thus far they have obtained 194 of the 218 necessary signatures and are hoping to have the rest by July 4th, which they are declaring “Radio Independence Day”.

Townhall.com’s Laura Donovan contributed to this report.