Thursday, February 12, 2009

White House Coy on "Fairness Doctrine"

At a White House press conference, veteran White house correspondent Les Kinsolving gave lie to any pretensions of fairness in the so called "Fairness Doctrine." According to World Net Daily he asked President Obama the following question.

"How does the president believe that the First Amendment can be upheld if the so-called Fairness Doctrine is reinstated and applied only to electronic media and not to any newspapers, magazines, and wire services?"

The answer from the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs was predictably evasive.

"Les, I pledge to you to study up on the Fairness Doctrine so that one day I might give you a more fulsome answer – even after 37 questions in 40 minutes."

The press secretary's answer was in response to an earlier question by Kinsolving in which Kinsolving asked "In President Kennedy's first press conference in 1961, he announced 37 questions – he answered 37 questions in 40 minutes. My question: Will President Obama study this transcript?"

Mr. Kinsolving's question cuts straight to the heart of the issue of the so called "Fairness Doctrine." how can a "Fairness Doctrine" be fair if it leaves the major television networks off the table?

What the Obama could do to put all doubt to rest is simple. he could issue the following statement.

"I will veto any revival of the Fairness Doctrine that was passed in 1949. I support certain opinions that I believe are underrepresented. The best way to correct this is with more free speech and not by suppressing the free speech of others."

Obama has been evasive about his commitment to free speech. It seems highly likely that a wink an a nod from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is emboldening enemies of free speech in the Senate who want to regulate conservative opponents such as Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage. A revival of the "Fairness Doctrine" would be like throwing a tear gas grenade into the courtroom of public opinion. Free speech is a powerful check on the power of elected officials between elections. If the Democrats are limited in their persuasive power or if they are defending ideas that are fundamentally flawed, this should be brought under the full light of public scrutiny.

Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our nation's values. The Democrats should see an outpouring of public feeling on this crucial issue. When the "Fairness Doctrine" is properly explained, it gets a resounding vote of disapproval from voters. It forces the government into scheduling programming on radio stations, creating formatting requirements that makes certain types of programmes impossible to schedule. Current laws do not bar liberals from buying stations or air time. No law can force people to listen to a radio programme. The Democrats have the opportunity to present their product. It is not selling. They have to go back to the drawing board.

The Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009 is a plausible solution to the sword over the throat of free speech being waved by Democrats. It reads as follows.

Notwithstanding section 303 or any other provision of this Act or any other Act authorizing the Commission to prescribe rules, regulations, policies, doctrines, standards, or other requirements, the Commission shall not have the authority to prescribe any rule, regulation, policy, doctrine, standard, or other requirement that has the purpose or effect of reinstating or repromulgating (in whole or in part) the requirement that broadcasters present opposing viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance, commonly referred to as the `Fairness Doctrine', as repealed in General Fairness Doctrine Obligations of Broadcast Licensees, 50 Fed. Reg. 35418 (1985).'.

It has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Representative Mike Pence of Indiana to the House of Representatives. Support for this bill is a positive way to make a statement on press and broadcast freedom. The Democrats dismiss it as a "distraction".

Anyone who is so wrong as are the Democrats on freedom of the press and broadcast media is probably wrong on a multitude of other issues as well. If this is not the case, then let them defend themselves in honest debate instead of by silencing others.

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