Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Fairness Doctrine: Is It Coming Back?

The Fairness Doctrine is not as dead as it should be. Michael Calderone, reported on his web site a very disturbing interview given by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, in which she presents the case for the reenactment of a "Fairness Doctrine." He quotes Senator Stabenow speaking with radio host Bill Press as follows.

"I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else – I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place."

Senator Stabenow had some interesting reasons for promoting what amounts to radio censorship.The following excerpt from the interview was quoted in Radio Business Report

“You know, we had something called the Fairness Doctrine, back until the eighties when it was removed, where where you had to have balance…and I think something that requires that in a market with owners that have multiple stations that they have got to have balance – there has to be some community uh, interest – balance, you know, standard that says both sides have to be heard.” She added, “When we hear the right wing conservative talk show hosts who are out there, just trying to make people angry and saying all kinds of things that aren’t true (emphasis mine ,MJ)and so on. There has to be voices on the other side.”

I am reeling with shock at the bald faced arrogance of Stabenow. Since one is "trying to make people angry" a crime? In the world of politics who is to say which are the"things that aren't true? Is government to be involved in the realm of the subjective. Will decisions of what is factual and what is factually relevant be made by a government agency? What shall we call that agency? How about calling it the Truth Department? How about calling it the Reeducation Department? Maybe we can add a new three digit number to 411 and 911.

"If you see a false claim made in talk radio, you must say something !! Is someone trying to create public anger? That's negative energy !!! That's a crime against happiness ! Dial 211 to reach the 24 hour Truth Department hotline. You don't have to give your name, and your complaint will be investigated. This public service announcement has been brought to you by the Truth Department.."

There is one legitimate function to government regulation of the airwaves. The radio and TV stations must be far apart enough on the dial that they do not interfere with each other. There are also issues of incitement and slander that apply equally to speech that is not broadcast. Beyond this narrow area is a slippery slope.

There are opportunities to buy TV and radio stations . Satelite and cable broaden available opportunities exponentially. Beyond that is the internet with infinite opportunities.

The next task for a person who wants to be heard is that of making a name for their column or broadcast. Liberal talk radio has been a flop when compared to conservative giants like Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh. Is this because liberal ideas are not as popular? Or could this be a problem of product packaging and marketing? .

On television, there are a lot of flops and a multitude of programmes with mediocre ratings. Runaway success is a rarity. Liberals have to keep trying. If they are worried about broadcasters bumping their programs, they can form blocs of liberal investors in radio and television who will under no circumstances ditch their programmes for something to the right that is more lucrative

Barack Obama won a decisive victory in November. Democrats also picked up seats in the Senate and House of Representatives. The renewed talk of a "Fairness Doctrine" seems to indicate that Democrats are running scared. Like Congress, each and every voter is filled with conflicting emotions and opinions. A battle is underway not every two, four or six years but every day. This is the battle for public opinion. When Debbie Stabenow talks about a renewed "Fairness Doctrine", she sounds like she' s running scared of losing in the court of public opinion. Amazingly enough, despite decisive Democratic victories in November, she sounds like a sore loser. How comical.

The battle over the "Fairness Doctrine is not going away. There is a piece of legislation which would put a ban on the "Fairness Doctrine" on the law books for good. It is called the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009. It is sponsored in the House of Representatives by Mike Pence( R) of Indiana. His web site has an abundance of information on "Fairness Doctrine".

Jim DeMint is introducing the same legislation in the Senate. Judging by some of the hysterical opposition to his bill, I think he has hit a raw nerve. Even as Democrats like Debbie Stabenow give interviews saying they want to bring back the so called Fairness Doctrine,liberals piously protest that there are no plans afoot to reinstitute it. One liberal blogger, A Candid World called it" a criminal waste of government resources."

It is interesting that the concerned liberal blogger I quoted above has no concern about the proliferation of silly resolutions that are passed on a regular basis in Congress. Following is a two day sample from the SGnTN blog.

  • House passed H. Res. 505: Recognizing the innumerable contributions of the recreational boating community and the boating industry to the continuing prosperity and affluence of the United States.
  • House passed H. Res. 189: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that a “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” should be established.
  • Senate passed S. Res. 256: A resolution designating June 2007 as “National Aphasia Awareness Month” and supporting efforts to increase awareness of aphasia.
  • Senate passed S. Res. 235: A resolution designating July 1, 2007, as “National Boating Day”.
  • Sen. Richard Lugar [R-IN] introduced S.Res. 253: A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the establishment of a Museum of the History of American Diplomacy through private donations is a worthy endeavor.
  • House Passed H. Res. 416: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the public service of Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
  • House passed H. Res. 361: Recognizing and honoring Jack Valenti and expressing the condolences of the House of Representatives to his family on his death
  • House passed H. Con. Res. 142: Expressing the sense of the Congress that there should be established a National Pet Week.
  • House passed H. Res. 477: Recognizing National Homeownership Month and the importance of homeownership in the United States.
  • House passed H. Res. 513: Supporting the goals and ideals of National Save for Retirement Week.
  • Senate passed S. Res. 230: A resolution designating the month of July 2007, as “National Teen Safe Driver Month”.
  • Senate passed S. Res. 225: A resolution designating the month of August 2007 as “National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month”.
  • Rep. Gregory Meeks [D-NY] introduced H. Res. 518: Recognizing the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence.
  • Rep. Silvestre Reyes [D-TX] introduced H.Res. 519: Honoring the life and accomplishments of renowned artist Tom Lea on the 100th anniversary of his birth.
  • Senate passed S. Res. 257: A resolution congratulating the University of California at Los Angeles for becoming the first university to win 100 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I team titles.
  • Sen. John Isakson [R-GA] introduced S.Res. 255: A resolution recognizing and supporting the long distance runs that will take place in the People’s Republic of China in 2007 and the United States in 2008 to promote friendship between the peoples of China and the United States.
I think that pro active protection of free speech is a lot more important than National Pet Week or National Save for Retirement Week.

The strongest argument against the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009 is that a "Fairness Doctrine" would never pass and that banning it would be superfluous. As we can see from the Stabenow interview, people are trying to pass a Fairness Doctrine, of which the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009 is a polar opposite.

The argument against the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009 is simple.

"Turn off your alarm and go back to sleep. so I can rob your house."

No thank you.

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