- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Senate overwhelmingly put itself on record Thursday against any revival of the defunct “Fairness Doctrine,” designed to require public broadcasters to air “balanced” coverage of controversial issues.

Conservatives have worried that the Obama administration and congressional Democrats were plotting to revive the policy, dropped in the last years of the Reagan administration, as a means of curtailing talk radio and other media dominated by right-of-center broadcasters.

The 87-11 vote came on an amendment to the bill that would give the District of Columbia full voting rights in the House of Representatives. It was offered by Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican.

The Federal Communications Commission first issued the rule mandating balanced coverage, but stopped enforcing it in 1987 after concluding that the explosion of news outlets and sources of information on public issues made the doctrine obsolete.

A spokesman for Mr. Obama last week said the president had no intention of reviving the Fairness Doctrine, but several of his aides had discussed the idea of reviving it at least in modified form. Mr. DeMint argued that his amendment was needed to guarantee that the FCC would not attempt to revive quotas or guidelines on programming.

Republicans and conservative broadcasters both said they feared the new administration was considering a renewal of aspects of the Fairness Doctrine to boost liberal media outlets.

Top-rated radio host Rush Limbaugh said recently he did not put much stock in Mr. Obama’s declaration.

“Of course they’re not going to bring back the ‘Fairness Doctrine.’ They’re going to call it something else,” he said.

The D.C. voting rights bill still must go to the House of Representatives, and it was not certain the FCC amendment would survive. But Mr. DeMint said the vote would put the Senate on record as strongly opposing any effort to resuscitate the doctrine. A majority of Democrats joined all of the Senate’s Republicans in backing Mr. DeMint’s amendment.

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