Indiana Congressman Mike Pence is one of the strongest opponents of the Democrats’ attacks on free speech and especially their plans to kill conservative talk radio by re-instituting the so-called “fairness doctrine”, the unconstitutional regulation requiring government mandated, balanced political coverage. A former talk radio host himself, Pence is also fervent about “The Free Flow of Information Act”, to protect confidentiality between reporters and sources, which passed by a vote of 398-21 last evening.
Yesterday, speaking with reporters and bloggers at The Heritage Foundation, Pence said he encountered a telling Bible verse in his morning devotions. “Where the Spirit of Lord is, there is freedom,” read the passage, which is also printed across the banner of the Indianapolis Star.
“[It’s] just one of those taps on the shoulder I get to occasionally remind me this is not about me,” said Pence. “I spoke today on the House floor about freedom’s unfinished work and the privilege that I feel in being able to put a stitch in what I believe is a tear in the fabric of the first amendment and freedom of the press.”
This morning Pence, along with Congressmen Greg Walden (R-Oregon), Minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) will file a procedural motion known as a discharge petition for the Broadcaster Freedom Act, a bill to permanently ban the “fairness doctrine.” The petition is used as a legislative device to override the necessity for committee approval and move legislation directly to the House floor. If 218 members sign, this bill can bypass its place in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Pence said they will start collecting signatures immediately.
Though discharge petitions rarely succeed, Pence is optimistic about this one because he says “Freedom is not a partisan issue in the House of Representatives.” He said he’s had good conversations with those “on the other side of the aisle” and is confident after the House voted 309-115 for the Pence Amendment in June. That amendment ruled not to instigate FCC regulations for one year and the vote included 107 Democrats.
“We anticipate every Republican to be on board…plucking off another 20 or so Democrats,” said Matt Lloyd, Pence’s press secretary. “We hope those Democrats who voted for that one year moratorium [the Pence Amendment] would join in this.”
Some top Democrat lawmakers like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calf.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) continue to assert that the “fairness doctrine” should be imposed. Republicans fear that a Democratic president could cause the revival of the “fairness doctrine” regulations with only two new appointments to the Federal Communications Commission.
“Since the demise of the fairness doctrine, talk radio has emerged as a dynamic forum for public debate and an asset to the nation,” Pence said in remarks following the June vote on the Pence Amendment.
Since demise of doctrine in 1987, stations featuring talk radio have soared from 200 to 2,000. The primary reason behind the massive increase in talk time is due to freedom from the bureaucracy of documentation and calculated broadcasting rules under the Doctrine.
Permitted to flow as the free market demands, talk radio has achieved most popularity on the conservative side of political ideology — exemplified in personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
Pence fears for the future of talk radio in America if the “fairness doctrine” is revived. He reminded guests yesterday that if a Democratic President is elected next year, they could restore the doctrine without an Act of Congress, which is why it’s so vital so stop the motion now.
“This is an existential threat to talk radio as we know it today,” he said.
Try as they might, left leaning pundits on the airways have failed to keep a steady audience. Air America, the nation’s only left wing talk radio “for progressive patriots”, according to their website, has failed again and again. They filed for bankruptcy last year and have been revived only by the deep pockets of liberal agenda-driven businessmen like George Soros, who is the 24th richest American with a net worth of $7.2 billion, according to Forbes Magazine.
The idea was pushed forward earlier this year when the liberal Center for American Progress published “”The Structural Imbalance of American Talk Radio” in attempt to tackle the irritation of being in the minority of demand. Instead of changing to meet the demands of the people, as a democratic society should effectively work, liberals demanded regulation in the form of the “fairness doctrine”’s revival.
Common sense application of constitutional law should settle the argument and Pence said freedom of press is “enshrined” into the first amendment because it’s often “the only check on government power in real time.”
With the broad bi-partisan success behind last night’s media shield law passage, Pence’s discharge petition may defy the odds and succeed .