Republicans introduced a bill Wednesday that would bar Congress, President-elect Barack Obama and federal media regulators from bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, which they said would all but eliminate the talk-radio industry.
The doctrine, a 1949 requirement that broadcasters present opposing points of view on political issues, was scrapped in 1987 after the Federal Communications Commission said it restricted journalistic freedom. But a new administration with the power to appoint members of the FCC, along with Democratic gains in both chambers on Capitol Hill, has renewed fears among Republicans that the doctrine could be revived.
“Freedom of speech is under attack in this country,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican and co-sponsor of the Broadcaster Freedom Act. “I am just committing today to use every rule, every tactic that we have at our disposal to keep the Fairness Doctrine from moving in Congress or to overrule it if it is implemented by the FCC.”
Many credit the rise of talk radio to the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, which also governed television broadcasters. If it were to be reimposed, sponsors of the bill said the entire medium would be threatened.
“Bringing back the Fairness Doctrine today would amount to government control over political views expressed on the airwaves,” said Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican and a former broadcaster.
Joining Mr. Pence and Mr. DeMint were Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon.
The group did not cite any immediate effort to revive the doctrine, but argued for the legislation as a preventive measure.
Democratic leaders don’t appear to be interested in revisiting the matter anytime soon. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he was unaware of any plans to revive the policy. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went a bit further.
“We have enough real problems facing this country that we don’t need to invent ones that don’t exist,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. “This is not even close to being on our radar screen.”