Conservative talk radio — one of the most potent forces in US politics — could be neutered by a return of the “Fairness Doctrine” unless Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) is able to get 28 more signatures on his “discharge petition” to force a House floor vote.
The so-called “Fairness Doctrine” — initiated in the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt — enabled the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the content of radio and later television programming. In its heyday, it proved effective in keeping nearly all conservative opinion off the air.
Part of former President Ronald Reagan’s legacy included ridding America of the Fairness Doctrine. When the measure was shelved in the 80’s, free speech went live and conservatives were no longer shut out of mass broadcast media. Radio truly became a free market.
The “Fairness Doctrine” could be revived by liberal appointments to the Federal Communications Commission, certain to happen if Barack Obama is elected this November. (It has been upheld by the Supreme Court, though it could be susceptible to further challenges.)
At a press conference yesterday, Pence urged members of Congress to sign a discharge petition that will bring the Broadcaster Freedom Act to a vote on the House floor.
When members of the 110th Democratic Congress picked up the Fairness Doctrine as their issue last year, Pence devised The Broadcaster Freedom Act to oppose this potential censorship.
The BFA would prevent the FCC from implementing regulations and prohibitions on broadcasters, and would ensure that no future President could reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.
As it stands, the measure has been shelved because Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to schedule a vote. She and the rest of the Congressional Dems would rather let time run out in the term in hopes that a Democrat president — assuming Barack Obama –would veto it and appoint liberals to the FCC.
Pence called for members to sign the discharge petition, which will force a vote, before July 4, in order to “declare support for freedom.”
If 218 members sign the petition members can demand a vote. Pence said he is confident the Act will pass because “when freedom gets an up-or-down vote in the People’s House, freedom always wins.”
Almost every Republican signed onto the BFA when it was introduced but not one Democrat budged. Republicans Timothy V. Johnson (Ill.), Ralph Regula (Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.V.) have yet to sign the petition.
Renowned conservative radio host Laura Ingraham said she will stand against the FD as the BFA is “imperiled” by these Democrat Congressmen and Senators.
“This is nothing more than an attempt to have government regulate one of the most effective forms of political discussion today,” said Ingraham, who ended her comments with a pledge: “out of my cold, dead hands.”
Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, joined Pence at the conference to recommend a new website — hypocrisycaucus.com — so voters can see “which politicians wake up every morning and lie to them on this issue.”
House Republican Leader John Boehner encouraged constituents to contact their member of Congress and hold them accountable for their part in the BFA. Boehner called the stalling of the Act in the House “bizarre” and said there was nothing “fair” about the Fairness Doctrine.
Brent Bozell, President of the Media Research Center, called the FD a “real threat to free speech” and lambasted the four decades when the broadcast wing of America was “chilled and silenced” until it was lifted in 1987.
“With the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, conservatives found a home in broadcast,” Bozell said. “The leftist ideas have no market there.”
Craig Parshall, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the National Religious Broadcasters, took the stage as well, noting a recent trip to the Netherlands that he thought might preview America’s future.
Parshall said that politically incorrect statements in the Netherlands are reported to the government and imposing the Fairness Doctrine here would only be a “thinly disguised form of tyranny.”
Republicans need the support of every member, including some moderate Democrats willing to take a stand.
“We want to challenge the House Democrats to take a stand for freedom and be a signer,” said Pence, who urged everyone to “cherish the dynamic forum that is American talk radio.”