Thought to be a relic of the 1980’s, the ironically named Fairness Doctrine that enabled the federal government to muzzle conservative voices on the airwaves may soon come back with a vengeance. “As someone who has been leading the Senate effort to permanently prohibit the return of the Fairness Doctrine, let me be clear that the danger of the Fairness Doctrine coming back is very clear and present,” said Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) at an October Heritage briefing. “What will take for it is for a Democratic president to put in place a Democratic majority at the FCC that can then decide—with the support of a Democratic Congress—to bring back the Fairness Doctrine,” he added.
Senator Mike Pence (R-IN) recently introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act, which would permanently prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or Congress from reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine.
One study released in June 2007 by the liberal non-profit Center for American Progress (CAP) and Free Press echoes the Senators’ suspicions. In “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio,” CAP researchers John Halpin et al. note that “Many legal experts argue that the FCC has the authority to enforce it again—thus it technically would not be considered repealed.” In other words, without a law prohibiting the return of the Fairness Doctrine, it could be quickly and easily reestablished by unaccountable leaders within a bureaucratic agency.
But conservatives argue that monitoring content is simply not the role of government. “It is dangerous to suggest that the government should be in the business of rationing free speech,” argues Congressman Pence.
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