“AM Radio will die,” conservative radio talk-show host Michael Reagan told me as we discussed the consequences of a reinstated Fairness Doctrine.
“It would be used as it was used in the past, that’s the reason my Father got rid of it. It will be used as a political weapon against radio station owners, program directors and managers.” said Reagan.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ended the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 under Ronald Reagan. First enacted in 1949 the Fairness Doctrine mandated that when a broadcast station presented one viewpoint on a controversial public issue it must also counter with the opposing viewpoint. Repealed by a vote of 4-0 it was concluded that the Fairness Doctrine had begun to inhibit political discourse rather than enhance it.
Congress tried to reinstate the doctrine but President Reagan vetoed their attempt. Again in 1991 another attempt to revive the doctrine failed when George H. W. Bush threatened a veto.
In recent weeks, politicians Diane Feinstein (D.-Ca.), Trent Lott (R.-Ms.), John Kerry (D.-Ma.) and Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) have called for the Fairness Doctrine to be reinstated once again.
“One of the most profound changes in the balance media is when the conservatives got rid of the equal time requirements. The result is they have been able to squeeze down and squeeze out opinion and opposing views, and I think it’s a major transition of the imbalance…” said Kerry on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC.
The Fairness Doctrine and its equal time requirements were in action before I was tall enough to reach the radio dial but conservative Radio talk-show host Barry Farber knows how the Fairness Doctrine worked first hand. “I don’t think that most people realize what it said” he told me.
“If someone was negatively referred to we didn’t have to grant equal time if that person asked… it was our job to seek out the parties that had been attacked and offer them equal time… That’s how unfair the law was.”
“I don’t think you’re going to see the left saying we have to apply this newspapers or we have to apply this to network television” said Farber.
In what is clearly a direct hit on conservative talk radio the Fairness Doctrine seems anything but fair. With the mainstream media being predominantly liberal, talk radio is the only outlet that conservatives can utilize. As Gary Bauer pointed out in his column last week in HUMAN EVENTS conservative talk radio is the Fairness Doctrine.
“It is the liberal left that shuts off the debate. It’s the liberal left that refuses to debate before FOX Television for the presidential campaign. The Republicans are willing to go to Chris Matthews and MSNBC” said Reagan.
In February, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D.-NY.) attempted to introduce the Media Ownership Reform act (MORA). MORA’s concepts included regulations that would prohibit consolidation and mass domination of broadcasting groups to in order to properly serve the public interest BUT at the same time slipped in the Fairness Doctrine. MORA went no where fast. Now those in favor of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine are no longer trying to deceive the public with rhetoric of media ownership regulations and going straight in for the kill.
Just like MORA was dead on arrival, last Thursday the House rejected the Fairness Doctrine. By vote of 309-115 it was decided that the FCC would not be able to use taxpayers dollars to impose the Fairness Doctrine. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) introduced the bill that blocks funding of the Fairness Doctrine.
There is little is little hope that the Fairness Doctrine can get the votes it needs to move anywhere in the Senate.
So are we in the clear? It may not be the Fairness Doctrine that Conservatives have to worry about…and we may have been victorious through the amnesty bill, but one can only wonder whats next — and who can we trust?
President Bush’s spokesman Tony Snow told HUMAN EVENTS White House Correspondent John Gizzi while answering questions on the Fairness Doctrine, that he was “Not going to argue with Sen. Lott.”
“The President is going to undermine his own party on the way out the door.” Michael Reagan told me.
“His legacy right now — came in like Reagan — went out like Carter, being Ronald Reagan’s son I can say these things… because I get it.”
“Its so sad what is going on and what we are seeing…When you think that my father used to have HUMAN EVENTS on his night stand in the White House to get what was going on and to have our side so attacked by our own people in Washington DC is unbelievable” said Reagan.
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter