Kucinich Could Revive Fairness Doctrine

Jan 18, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Add Congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich to the list of challengers to the Federal Communications Commission — and potentially to media companies.

The Ohio congressman was formally named on Wednesday to head the Domestic Policy panel of the House Government Reform Committee. Even before that announcement was made, Rep. Kucinich raised some eyebrows when he told a media reform conference in Memphis that his panel would hold hearings on reviving the Fairness Doctrine and on media ownership issues.

“Yes absolutely, we’re going to get that,” Rep. Kucinich said at the conference, according to a report from Drew Clark of the Center for Public Integrity.

The congressman also said in Memphis that he would hold “hearings to push media reform right at the center of Washington” and he criticized attempts to undo the cross-ownership ban that prevents a newspaper and broadcaster from buying each other.

“The urgency of media reform has never been more obvious,” he was quoted as saying. “The media has become a servant of very narrow corporate interests.”

The Fairness Doctrine, adopted in 1949 by the FCC and generally abandoned during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, required stations airing information on controversial issues of public importance to offer contrasting points of views. From the 1970s to the early 1980s it was interpreted as also requiring stations that presented attacks or criticism to seek out and provide equal time for the other side. Any plans to revive it would likely spark a major fight with broadcasters. Recently when President Bush announced his Iraq policy in a prime-time speech, the Democratic Party response by Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin wasn’t aired by most broadcasters. The Fairness Doctrine could have required broadcasters to air that response.

An aide to the congressman declined to confirm plans for hearings and specifically whether any would be held on the Fairness Doctrine. She said that while media issues will be a high priority, it won’t be the panel’s only focus. She declined to make the congressman available for comment.

Rep. Kucinich in a statement said his panel “will endeavor to reestablish oversight over regulatory agencies which were created to protect the public interest. I will be asking questions about the operations of every federal department and expect to be able to bring to public light information that has been hidden for the last six years.

“In doing so, we’ll be able to provide other Congressional committees with potential for new policy directions. We have a mandate to investigate government agency enforcement of the law and thereby contribute to new policy directions.”

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