The Fairness Doctrine – Silencing the Opposition

Silencing the Opposition

The Fairness Doctrine and President Obama’s better plan

For years Congressional liberals have been talking about a return of the ludicrously misnamed “Fairness Doctrine.” Motivating their talk has been the desire to silence conservative talk radio.

Certain Congressional conservatives have been just as vocal in their opposition to a return of the Fairness Doctrine and have signed on to a bill that would prevent such a return.

Click here to send a message to your Congressman to support the Broadcaster Freedom Act.

Just this week, President Obama joined the conversation. His remarks surprised many on both sides of the debate. White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told, “(The president) does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated.”

But do not jump to conclusions.

Like so many of President Obama’s remarks of late, this one, too, cannot be taken at face value. As we noted in our January Courier, the president’s opposition to a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine should not be interpreted to mean that the president is not on the side of those who wish to silence conservative talk radio.

First, some background:

It was in 1949 that the Federal Communications Commission created the Fairness Doctrine, which required federally licensed radio and television stations to “provide a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints” on “vitally important controversial issues.” Unable to appease every listener who complained that his or her viewpoint was not being adequately represented, radio station owners were forced to do away with programming that dealt with controversial issues. The public thus became less informed.

In 1987, President Reagan’s FCC did away with the Fairness Doctrine. Because a liberal viewpoint dominated mainstream media (TV networks and print), there was considerable, pent-up, demand for conservative talk radio. Limbaugh, Hannity, Ingraham, Beck and other conservative talk show hosts appeared on the scene, quickly flourished, and continue to dominate the radio air waves today.

That brings us to the current debate.

Not satisfied with their domination of mainstream network, cable and print media, many Congressional liberals, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), have been calling for the FCC to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. They know that stations would be unable to find sponsors for programming to offset conservative voices (case in point, the liberal “Air America” experiment!). They know, further, that stations could not afford to subsidize such unpopular programming. Stations thus would be left with no alternative but to cut off conservative talk, thereby removing conservatives’ last bastion of sanity and only answer to the liberal mainstream media.

So why does President Obama oppose the Fairness Doctrine, which would silence those who expose his anti-family, anti-faith, anti-American agenda? Because he knows that the majority of Americans would react negatively to such an obvious move to censor his opposition, and because he has found a better way to accomplish the same end.

Even during his campaign, Obama expressed opposition to a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, saying through his press secretary that he considered the debate “to be a distraction from the conversation that we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible.”

Obama’s preferred weapon of choice in this battle is a vague FCC rule called “localism,” which requires stations to serve the interests of their local communities in order to hold onto their broadcast licenses. As a senator, he was vocal in his criticism of the FCC’s failure to “further the goals of diversity in the media and promote localism.”

Under a redefined, Obama-directed approach to localism, advisory boards consisting of local community leaders would periodically review local stations’ programming to ensure content diversity. Any station failing to placate such a board would then be subject to license revocation, and their license could then be awarded to minority owners.

By Obama’s way of thinking, the localism approach trumps the Fairness Doctrine. Once a station lost its license to a liberal owner whose content would then reflect his/her views, there would be no Fairness Doctrine around to require equal time for slighted conservative listeners.

What can we do?

First, in spite of the president’s stated opposition, there still is a push among Congressional liberals to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine. To counter that effort, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) have introduced H.R.226, the Broadcaster Freedom Act.  This bill would take away from the FCC the authority to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Please follow the link below to send your Congressman a message encouraging support of the Broadcaster Freedom Act.

Strong support for the Broadcaster Freedom Act not only will remove the threat of a return of the Fairness Doctrine, but also will serve to send a message to the President that any attempt to silence conservative talk radio will not be tolerated.  Please click the link below to send your message.

Secondly, stay alert and stay tuned to the CCV Perspective and e-mail action alerts.  President Obama’s choice to replace conservative FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will be in place soon. We must respond quickly and loudly to any move to use “localism” to take over public airwaves and silence opposition to his anti-family agenda.