Dems Block Fairness Doctrine Amendment

Jul 13, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Democrats may not be winning the talk radio battle, but they quashed the first Senate bid to bar the Federal Communications Commission from doing something about the inequity.
In a procedural move, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., today prevented Republicans from amending a defense appropriation bill to block the FCC from reviving the Fairness Doctrine. The doctrine requires broadcasters to offer competing viewpoints in a balanced manner when presenting controversial issues.
In turn, the objection kicked off an expansive colloquy on broadcasting fairness issues between Sen. Durbin and Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., the amendment’s chief sponsor.
“I would ask the senator if he believes in the interest of an educated electorate, whether he thinks Americans could hear both sides of the story, a kind of fair and balanced approach when it comes to information?” asked Sen. Durbin.
“I absolutely believe that Americans should hear both sides,” responded Sen. Coleman. “But I believe—strongly believe—that the government should not be in the position of deciding and dictating, ‘Now here is the other side.’ Americans have all sorts of options to hear the other side. All they’ve got to do is turn a dial. All they’ve got to do is push a button. All they’ve got to do is press a mouse. And they have that ability.”
“Does the senator concede that the airwaves belong to the American people?” asked Sen. Durbin. “Those who profit from them do by permission of the people … and that those who use those airwaves should do it responsibly and should seek to provide both points of view, both sides of the story, so that Americans can reach a decision.”
“Here’s our point of disagreement,” responded Sen. Coleman. “I was a former mayor. We licensed a lot of things. But one of the basic principles at stake is that we don’t license and measure content when it comes to speech.”
He added that there have been complaints the broadcast journalists are dominated by liberals, but that also shouldn’t be regulated by the government.
The FCC hasn’t debated reviving the Fairness Doctrine, but some Democrats upset by the amount of conservative talk radio versus the paucity of progressive talk radio have questioned whether listeners are getting too one-sided a discussion. While radio is most often discussed, traditionally the discussions have included TV as well.
Sen. Coleman called the Fairness Doctrine “a relic” of the past and promised to pursue trying to get the Senate to act.
“In this day and age, reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine is not about equal balance, as its supporters claim. It is about muzzling broadcasters. I believe it is a dangerous proposition for the government to be in the business of rationing free speech and determining what is fair. At the very least, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle should have allowed this amendment to be debated,” he said.
(Editor: Horowitz)


  1. If the Fairness Doctrine is debated and is imposed again by the F.C.C. after it was abolished over 20 years ago the following will occur.
    1. Freedom of Enterprize will be in jeopardy.
    2. Our Freedom of Speech and right to listen to whoever wish will be trampled.
    The Democrats understand that no true liberal radio show has ever been succesful on terrestrial radio. Though Conservative talk radio has always been succesful. Some of it is too far right I admit.
    So we the U.S. voting population should stand up and flood the Senate floor with calls. We should flood Senators who support the fairness doctrine with calls, faxes and letters. Remember we voted them in office, and we can vote them out next time around.
    The Fairness Doctrine is unfair if it only includes terrestrial radio. It should if passed be enforced on all public airways that are governed by the F.C.C. TV, the internet, and Cable/Satellite TV.

  2. I find it amusing that the same people who claim the Fairness Doctrine would restrict free speech have not mentioned the historical record of what occurred following its abolition. These are probably the same people who cheered when the Supreme Court ruled that money=free speech. Who ever has the most money gets to use the airwaves is not free speech. It is corporatism at its worst and flies in the face of the demands laid out in the original FCC charter: provide equal access to the airwaves, promote diversity of viewpoint and protect local access. Is this what we have now? I think not.

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