Bid to hush Rush
House Republican lawmakers are preparing to fight anticipated Democratic efforts to regulate talk radio by reviving rules requiring stations to balance conservative hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh, with liberals, the Hill newspaper reports.
Conservatives fear that forcing stations to make equal time for liberal talk radio would cut into profits so drastically that radio executives would opt to scale back on conservative radio programming to avoid escalating costs and interference from the Federal Communications Commission, reporter Alexander Bolton writes.
They say radio stations would take a financial hit if forced to air balanced programming because liberal talk radio has not proved itself to be as profitable as conservative radio. Air America, the liberal counterpunch to conservative talk radio, filed for bankruptcy in October.
But Democratic leaders say that government has a compelling interest to ensure that listeners are properly informed.
“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” saidSenate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois. “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”
The Fairness Doctrine, which the FCC discarded in 1985, required broadcasters to present opposing viewpoints on controversial political issues. Before 1985, government regulations called for broadcasters to “make reasonable judgments in good faith” on how to present multiple viewpoints on controversial issues.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and Senate Rules Committee chairman, said she planned to “look at the legal and constitutional aspects of” reviving the Fairness Doctrine. Democrats on the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee have also begun to focus on what they regard as a lack of diversity in talk radio, and may hold hearings later this year.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused yesterday to reinstate a dropped conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle had charged Mr. DeLay and two associates with conspiracy to violate the state’s election code in connection with corporate funds used in 2002 state legislative elections.
A state district judge threw out that charge after defense lawyers argued that conspiracy couldn’t be applied because the law he is accused of violating didn’t take effect until 2003. A regional appeals court upheld the judge’s decision.
Prosecutors then went to the state’s highest criminal appeals court, leading to yesterday’s ruling.
Mr. DeLay, who resigned from office last year, still faces a money-laundering charge and a charge of conspiring to launder money. Lawyers are arguing about those charges before an appeals court, and no trial date has been set.
Mr. DeLay’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said he was pleased with yesterday’s ruling but sorry that it took so long and resulted in Mr. DeLay’s resignation from Congress, where he represented Houston’s southwest suburbs for more than 20 years.