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When Evil Was Called Good

Depends on What the Meaning of 'Fairness Doctine' Is

Reports are out that President Obama has said he opposes any attempt to bring up the Fairness Doctrine. This isn't the first time he has said this, and it certainly won't be the last.

He can say it as often as he wants and he might oppose the specific language known as the "Fairness Doctrine," but that doesn't mean he opposes the principle of it. In fact, just the opposite can be seen from his record as senator.

For example, as Terence Jeffrey noted in "Silencing the Opposition" in the February 2009 issue of Townhall magazine (subscribe), he can go about imposing the same thing as the Fairness Doctrine all the while opposing the actual Fairness Doctrine (hello, Clinton-speak).
To increase “progressive” talk and decrease conservative talk, CAP [Center for American Progress] recommended capping the number of stations any organization can own, increasing the percentage of stations owned by women and minorities, shortening the lifespan of broadcasting licenses from eight years to three, and compelling licensees to show they are serving the local “public interest.” Could an Obama administration do this?

The FCC has fi ve commissioners appointed by the president, who chooses the chairman from among them. No more than three can be from one party. The commission is now missing a Republican member whose term expired. Obama can immediately name a Democrat to fi ll the vacancy, securing a Democratic majority, and elevate one of the Democrats to the chairmanship.

Obama spokesman Michael Ortiz told Broadcasting & Cable last year that Obama does not favor the Fairness Doctrine, considering discussion of it “a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible.” Ortiz mentioned “media-ownership caps” and “increased minority ownership of broadcasting and print outlets” as things Obama did support.

In a 2007 letter to the FCC, Obama criticized the commission because he believed it “failed to further the goals of diversity in the media and promote localism.”

Obama’s team may be preparing not to censor Rush Limbaugh but to have the FCC transfer broadcast licenses to station owners who will hire someone else in his place.
Obama's 2007 FCC letter to Federal Communications Chairman Kevin J. Martin made clear that Obama supported media-ownership caps and increased minority ownership of print and broadcast media.

Getting a Democrat-controlled FCC to enforce these agenda items will allow President Obama to get Fairness Doctrine results—a diminished right-wing radio presence—while still claiming to oppose the Fairness Doctrine.

Below are the relevant portions of the 2007 letter.
Dear Chairman Martin:

I am writing regarding your proposal to move forward aggressively with modifications to existing media ownership rules. … I believe both the proposed timeline and process are irresponsible.

Minority owned and operated newspapers and radio stations play a critical role in the African American and Latino communities and bring minority issues to the forefront of our national discussion. However, the commission has failed to further the goals of diversity in the media and promote localism, and as a result, it is in no position to justify allowing for increased consolidation of the market. …

While the FCC did commission two studies on minority ownership in the round of 10 studies it ordered at the beginning of 2007, both su ered from the same problem—inadequate data from which to make determinations on the status of minority media ownership or the causes for that status and ways to increase representation.

It is time to put together an independent panel … to issue a specific proposal for furthering the goal of diversity in media ownership. I object to the agency moving forward to allow greater consolidation in the media market without fi rst fully understanding how that would limit opportunities for minority-, small business and women-owned firms. …

I find it disturbing that, according to The New York Times, the commission is considering repealing the newspaper and television cross ownership rules. It is unclear what your intent is on the rest of the media ownership regulations. Repealing the cross ownership rules and retaining the rest of our existing regulations is not a proposal that has been put out for public comment; the proper process for vetting it is not in closed-door meetings with lobbyists or in selective leaks to The New York Times.

Although such a proposal may pass the muster of a federal court, Congress and the public have the right to review any specifi c proposal and decide whether or not it constitutes sound policy. And the commission has the responsibility to defend any new proposal in public discourse and debate.

This is not the first time I have communicated with the agency on this matter. Sen. Kerry and I wrote to you on July 20, 2006, stating that the commission needed to address and complete a proceeding on issues of minority and small business media ownership before taking up the wider media ownership rules. Our request echoed an amendment adopted by the Senate Commerce Committee in June 2006. …

I ask you to reconsider your proposed timeline, put out any specific change to the rules for public comment and review, move to establish an independent panel on minority and small business media ownership, and complete a proceeding on the responsibilities that broadcasters have to the communities in which they operate.
UPDATE: Apologies for repeating some of what Amanda has posted below. I didn't know she was posting a similar item.

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