Bills Would Block FCC on Fairness Doctrine

Jan 7, 2009  •  Post A Comment

It didn’t take long in the new Congress for Republicans to mount a fresh attempt to head off any bid by the Federal Communications Commission to revive the fairness doctrine, an old requirement that broadcasters have to provide equal time for competing political viewpoints.
Yesterday, on the first day bills could be introduced, Senate Republicans offered two bills to prevent the FCC from acting. House Republicans offered one.
The bills were introduced amidst fear by conservative talk-radio hosts that a new Democratic led FCC could reintroduce the requirement–impacting the ability of radio stations to run conservative talk shows. The FCC dropped the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. While it existed, the doctrine applied to TV stations as well as radio stations.
Although Republicans and conservative talk show hosts have been fearful of the doctrine’s revival, there has been little indication so far that Democrats plan to revive it.
One of the Senate bills was sponsored by 24 Republicans including Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; and James Inhofe, R-Okla.
Sen. Inhofe sponsored the second.
The House legislation was sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., and has 70 co-sponsors.
Mr. Inhofe in a statement called the Fairness Doctrine “a serious threat to free speech” and warned it “muzzles” the expression of opinion.
“It is a dangerous maneuver to enact more government ‘policing’ on our airwaves. Now, with Democrats in the control of the House, Senate and White House, the threat of its reenactment is more real than ever.
“The content of talk radio shows is market driven; it’s simple supply and demand. If more people want to listen to a certain type of talk radio, then those programs will be sustained by advertising, donations, and other sources. It is clear that the Democrats fear the growing audience for conservative talk radio. If the demand for liberal programming were greater, perhaps there would be more shows with that content.”
Mr. Pence warned a return of the doctrine would cause major problems.
“It is dangerous to suggest that the government should be in the business of rationing free speech,” he said.
(Editor: Baumann)


  1. The problem is that radio is not market driven, it is driven by ownerrship and advertising. Dozens of well performing liberal talk shows have been taken off the air since Democrats’ success in 2006, and replaced with shows that get lower ratings. Was that decision driven by markets or ideology? What about the more than 90 major corporations which boycotted Air America radio because they do not like their anti-corporate message? Time to level the radio playing field somehow, and the Fairness Doctrine is just one possible remedy.

  2. The problem is that radio is not market driven, it is driven by ownerrship and advertising.

    Umm…The advertisers are appealing to the listenership, who will then buy their products or services. Those advertisers track where their clientele is coming from, and if they find a large number of clients heard about them through a radio ad, they will continue to advertise on that radio station. That’s called being “market driven.”

  3. Sue nothing you said makes any sense–you’ve clearly been listening to too much err america.
    If radio isn’t “market driven” then how does “ownership” or “advertising” keep it in business? “Ownership” doesn’t generate any revenue, and no company will ever “advertise” on any medium that will not generate revenue for themselves.
    The reason conservative radio succeeds is because it presents a message that most people agree with. Advertisers know this, and so they fork out the money to entice listeners to buy their products.

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