White House Backs Pence Bill To Stop Fairness Doctrine

A week after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not bring to a vote a  bill to stop reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine, the White House yesterday weighed in strongly behind the legislation authored by Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.).  But, in also endorsing the Pence’s Broadcasters Freedom Act, the President’s top spokesman left open the possibility of the White House helping secure the 22 signatures required to get the measure out of committee and on the House floor for a vote.

“Look, I think if we’d control the United States Congress, there’s a lot of things we would have done — like, for example, pass a housing bill that we first introduced ten months ago,” Press Secretary Dana Perino told me. “Let me point you back to everything that we’d said on the Fairness Doctrine beforehand.  We don’t believe it is necessary, and we strongly disagree with Speaker Pelosi and those who support her position. 

“So we support Congressman Pence,” Perino said, but added “I don’t know if there’s much we can do about the calendar.”

Perino did not rule out helping Pence round up the signatures he needs to get his measure out of committee.  When I asked if the President or other Administration officials would help Pence in getting the required signatures on the discharge petition, she replied: “I’ll see if there’s anything [the] legislative affairs office [in the White House] is working on in that regard.”

The Fairness Doctrine, which required radio stations to provide equal broadcast time to opposing opinions on issues, was enforced by the Federal Communications Commission from 1947 until 1987.  The Reagan Administration ended the practice, which discouraged small stations from carrying controversial commentators, noting that there were enough broadcast outlets and cable channels to provide diversity in commentary.  Earlier this year, Pence introduced his legislation to bar reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine. Last week, Pelosi told me at the Christian Science Monitor that she personally supported the Fairness Doctrine and would not bring Pence’s measure to a vote by the House if it failed to secure the required signatures on the discharge petition.