With the elections taking up most of the oxygen in the punditry, the issue of the Fairness Doctrine has slipped below the radar. On Wednesday, Laura Ingraham revisited it on her new Fox show, Just In, by inviting Rep. Mike Pence and Jennifer Palmieri of the Center for American Progress to debate it. CAP wants the old regulatory burden reimposed on broadcasters, an understandable position given the inability of progressive talk radio to compete for listeners in the free market. Pence wants to keep the government out of the political-speech industry. Via Newsbusters, Eyeblast has the video, and TV Eyes has the transcript:
LAURA INGRAHAM: let’s get mike pence into this. congressman, i know the broadcast of freedom act is something you are pushing. what is the problem? you cannot get the gop to sign on to stop the fairness doctrine from rearing its ugly head?
REP. MIKE PENCE: we have been going after it because with respect to your guests and the center for american progress, some of the most powerful democrats have been calling for a restoration of this on a bright government regulation of the airwaves of america. — of this out right government regulation of the airwaves of america. as well as democrats who categorically last summer opposed our effort to pass even a one-year moratorium on reimposing the fairness doctrine. we’ve reintroduce the broadcast freedom act one year ago. they have blocked any consideration of that bill. we introduced it petition for birchcrest — broadcast free them. virtually every public and has signed that to give us an upper doan — up or down vote. not one democrat has signed.
INGRAHAM: what? i do not understand. democrats are the party of free speech, the diversity of viewpoints.
JENNIFER PALMIERI: the broadcast that they are protecting our the big national broadcasts. you hear britney spears on every station, not local music.
INGRAHAM: i do not like her but somebody does, obviously.
PALMIERI: it is a small amount of radio station owners.
INGRAHAM: they are all for making money.
REP. PENCE: what you hear in here –
INGRAHAM: i cannot believe that you are turning the page and you cannot compete in talk radio —
PALMIERI: you have got to be funny.
INGRAHAM: go ahead.
REP. PENCE: what you are hearing here, jennifer, i think is a very sincere person, but candidly, her boss and the folks at the center for american progress which are clinton administrative leftovers, dianne feinstein, dick durbin, john kerry are all advocating that washington, dc return to picking winners and losers and deciding what the american people should hear or not here. but if the reagan administration did away with the fairness doctrine in 1987 and talk radio exploded as a result by a factor of 10. the american people love this medium and they love the debate. think tanks in washington and people with power in washington, d.c. should be rejecting any effort to return the so-called fairness doctrine.
INGRAHAM: i’m afraid of the bureaucrat in a windowless office going to come out ok, laura ingraham was on that station so we have to force a leftist on afterwards. we do not want bureaucrats turning into programmers. more speech is better. the liberals can compete. we are out of time. they are going to do well. they’re doing well in other areas. you do not need affirmative action. the center for american progress and congressmen pence.
Ingraham has this right — the Fairness Doctrine would become a sort of affirmative-action program for progressives. In reality, though, it would sound a death knell for political talk radio and probably for the AM band altogether. Broadcasters simply will not allow themselves to take the risks of punitive action based on the volume of complaints that would arise if they had to ration their airwaves based on political direction. The bookkeeping costs alone of noting every minute of Right vs Left programming would be enough to force most broadcasters out of the arena, and the legal costs of fighting every challenge regardless of substance would take out the rest.
Of course, that’s exactly what CAP wants. They want to keep conservative voices off the air, after having seen how poorly progressive voices fare in the market. Instead of trying to find better talent on the Left, they just want government to intervene on their behalf instead.
Government regulation fits the progressive model, while freedom fits the conservative model. No one should be shocked at this, but if Congress and the White House both come under the control of the progressives, then we can expect the Fairness Doctrine to once again reappear — unless Pence can get his Broadcaster Freedom Act passed. Hopefully, this does not get lost in the electio-year shuffle again.