Dingell Backs Return of Fairness Doctrine

Feb 27, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., offered a new call to revive the Federal Communication Commission’s fairness doctrine, which required broadcasters to offer competing viewpoints in a balanced manner when presenting controversial issues.

He also suggested any congressional action to regulate violent TV this year is unlikely.

“I don’t see much happening this year [on violence]. It could change in 5 minutes if somebody does something dumb,” the powerful congressman told the annual government affairs conference of the three main advertising groups, the American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. The FCC in a report delivered last week recommended Congress act to regulate violent content.

Rep. Dingell didn’t say exactly what he would do to reimpose the fairness doctrine. He also said he believes broadcasters should have no trouble with any action on the issue.

“Can you explain to me why a broadcaster ought not to have to be fair or would not be fair?” he said.

He also hinted an initiative would be forthcoming, saying, “If you are concerned about it, keep your eye on me, because I intend to address this one very soon.”

The FCC dropped the fairness doctrine in 1987, amidst concerns that the doctrine violated broadcasters’ First Amendment free speech rights.

In January, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who heads a panel of Rep. Dingell’s Energy and Commerce Committee, said he planned to hold hearings on reviving the fairness doctrine. Kucinich is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

TV broadcasters reacted strongly to Kucinich, saying the requirement interfered with news coverage and violated broadcasters’ First Amendment rights.

“The last thing this country needs is the government telling NPR or local broadcasters how to cover the news,” said Dennis Wharton, exec VP of the National Association of Broadcasters. “We have gone without it for 20 years and there has been an explosion of coverage of issues from all angles.”

(Editor: Horowitz)