Senate Passes Fairness Doctrine Bill

Feb 26, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The Senate today moved to ban the Federal Communications Commission from reintroducing the Fairness Doctrine, stuffing the measure into legislation that would give the District of Columbia its own congressman.
The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to offer equal time to differing viewpoints. It was abolished by the FCC in 1987 but conservative radio talk shows have regularly stirred up concern it would be revived by the FCC under a Democratic administration. Democrats haven’t made such a move and say they have no plans to do so.
The amendment to block the FCC from acting was one of several amendments added to the D.C. bill before it was passed by the Senate on a 61-to-37 vote. Another amendment banning Washington from imposing gun-control limits could yet kill the legislation. The House has passed similar D.C. legislation but didn’t add the Fairness Doctrine amendments.
The ban on the FCC reinstating the doctrine was proposed by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. and the amendment passed 87 to 11.
Sen. DeMint had also offered an amendment (which later was trumped) that would have banned the FCC from requiring broadcasters to meet programming quotas or guidelines for issues of public importance. That amendment potentially could have blocked the FCC from requiring broadcasters to air children’s or local programming. That element was obviated when a version of the Fairness Doctrine amendment passed without the additional language.
The amendment as finally included in the bill was pushed by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who questioned whether conservatives were creating a red herring with the Fairness Doctrine push.
“This is the bloody shirt, a phrase that comes out when people come to the floor and try to inflame passions,” he said.
“The right wing broadcasters have been waving the bloody shirt for months and they love this setting up the false choice,” he said. “It hasn’t happened and it isn’t going do happen and I am not trying to make it happen.”
He said that while he doesn’t support reinstating the doctrine he also doesn’t support removing the right of the Federal Communications Commission to require stations act in the public interest.
“The Fairness Doctrine in 2009 doesn’t make sense,” he said. “But let’s not give up on the concept of fairness.”
(Updated throughout at 7:02 p.m. ET.)


  1. Is there any bill before the House which deals with the issue of The Fairness Doctrine or any bill related to this subject?

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