No one’s talking about the Fairness Doctrine?

posted at 4:00 pm on November 14, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Today’s entry in the Los Angeles Times by James Rainey on the Fairness Doctrine presents a confused and contradictory dismissal of the concerns raised by Democratic members of Congress talking about its resurrection.  Rainey goes to great pains to dismiss these concerns as a “pigment of their imagination”. Really?

It’s a nice plot line, and lots of people seem to be expending tremendous energy fretting about it. But let’s just say that the imminent reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine is, as Archie Bunker liked to say, a pigment of their imagination.

Yes, a few Democratic lawmakers have recently talked about supporting such regulation, rules they say could be justified to protect a scarce public resource — the public airwaves.

In October, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) told a conservative Albuquerque talker that he supported the Fairness Doctrine. “I would want this station and all stations to have to present a balanced perspective and different points of view,” Bingaman said, “instead of always hammering away at one side of the political [spectrum].”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is another lawmaker who has expressed an interest in bringing back the rules. Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.) has considered reintroducing a media ownership reform law, to try to expand and diversify control of radio and television outlets. But it’s unclear whether that measure would include a Fairness Doctrine, as an earlier Hinchey proposal did.

What exactly does Rainey mean to say here? Should we just laugh off everything that Democrats say on policy because we think that a majority in Congress couldn’t possibly pass legislation beneficial to Democrats and expect a Democrat in the White House to sign it? It’s not as if it’s been mentioned by back-benchers on occasion, after all:

Rainey dismissed Bingaman’s support as philosophical only, and accuses critics of ignoring Bingaman’s statements that the FD wouldn’t be “politically feasible”.  Perhaps that’s due to the effort by conservatives, such as Rush Limbaugh, to continue to oppose it publicly, something Rainey never considers at all in this argument.  Also, Bingaman didn’t seem all that reticent yesterday (thanks to AP for the link):

CNSNews.com: “Senator, a question on the Fairness Doctrine. In October, you told a station in New Mexico that you think the Fairness Doctrine ought to be revived. As far as WTNT here in Washington and WMAL, they have a pretty right-wing line up. Do you think the federal government should force them to balance out their programming?”

Bingaman: “Oh no, I think it’s fine. They can do whatever they want.”

CNSNews.com: “But you do support reviving the Fairness Doctrine, correct?”

Bingaman: “Well, I just said that I thought it served us well when we had it. That’s all I said.”

CNSNews.com: “But do you think the Fairness Doctrine would end up forcing them to balance out their programming?”

Bingaman: “I don’t know what the effect of it would be at this point.”

That wasn’t “all” Bingaman said on October 21st:

Villanucci: You would want this radio station to have to change?

Bingaman: I would. I would want this station and all stations to have to present a balanced perspective and different points of view instead of always hammering away at one side of the political –

Villanucci: I mean in this market, for instance, you’ve got KKOB. If you want liberal talk, you’ve got Air America in this market, you’ve got NPR, you’ve got satellite radio – there’s a lefty talk station and a rightie talk station. Do you think there are people who aren’t able to find a viewpoint that is in sync with what they believe?

Bingaman: Well I guess my thought is that talk radio and media generally should have a higher calling than just reflect a particular point of view. I think they should use their authority to try to – their broadcast power to present an informed discussion of public issues. KKOB used to be a, used to live under the Fairness Doctrine, and every –

Villanucci: Yeah, we played music, I believe –

Bingaman: But there was a lot of talk also, at least it seemed to me, and there were a lot of talk stations that seemed to do fine. The airwaves are owned by private companies at this point. There’s a license to private companies to operate broadcast stations, and that’s the way it should be. All I’m saying is that for many, many years we operated under a Fairness Doctrine in this country, and I think the country was well-served. I think the public discussion was at a higher level and more intelligent in those days than it has become since.

And let’s not forget that the Democratic Party platform explicitly called for a restoration of the FD in its 2000 platform.  They made it less explicit this year, but have this passage (page 23, emphasis mine):

We will encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.

So what’s to worry about, right?  Disregard the fact that Democratic leadership keeps talking about a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, or that the party platform continues to threaten broadcasters with more oversight.  Hey, if Markos Moulitsas doesn’t mention it on his blog, it doesn’t matter, right?

Bryan Myrick at Unequal Time also points out that the article subhead is flat-out untrue:

The sub-headline of the story reads:

Impose a mandate on broadcasters to balance their political views? That would be onerous indeed. But memo to Rush: Nobody’s asking for that.

I know Rainey didn’t write the headline of the sub-head.  Still, any readers not managing to make it past the bold print take away the notion that conservative talk radio hosts across the country are held in the grip of paranoid delusion.  But, in the commentary body, Rainey cites two senators – Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) – as having publicly called for the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” to be reapplied.

Quite obviously, several Democrats are calling for that, and their platform signals that it’s party policy.  Will it pass?  I don’t think it would — but that doesn’t mean Democrats won’t try.  Rainey seems to be trying far too hard to dismiss calls from senior leaders of the party for the FD in order to unfairly paint the people who would suffer the most from its reimposition as somehow paranoid for responding to their public statements.


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I know, let’s bring back the Fairness Doctrine, and maybe the MSM will start actually reporting on Hussein! Ya think?

Akzed on November 14, 2008 at 4:03 PM

… as Archie Bunker liked to say, a pigment of their imagination.

Wasn’t that a Ringo Starr quote from Yellow Submarine?

UltimateBob on November 14, 2008 at 4:04 PM

So … are the Dems divided, or are they trying to con us, or are they just unwilling to back up their strong words in front of a hostile audience?

njcommuter on November 14, 2008 at 4:05 PM

They need to pursue this, it’s going to come back and bite them in the butt big time.

Cindy Munford on November 14, 2008 at 4:05 PM

this is not going to pass…

NRA Lifer on November 14, 2008 at 4:05 PM

The Dems trying this would be great for the Right. I know that sounds heretical but I really want us to have public hearings and a national debate about this.

D0WNT0WN on November 14, 2008 at 4:06 PM

buy siriusXM its 25 cents gonna go up

rico101 on November 14, 2008 at 4:06 PM

Speaking of Archie Bunker; I remember an episode of All in the Family where Archie got on TV with an opposing viewpoint on gun control. He felt you arm everyone who got on an airplane. Then who would be stupid enough to stand up and say, “this is a hijacking”. Could have used this logic a few years back.

Tommy_G on November 14, 2008 at 4:09 PM

Gee why is it shocking that the media is already covering for the Democrats. If this was a Republican , you would hear this same guy and the rest of the sheep in the media, screaming about fascism and free speech.

MDWNJ on November 14, 2008 at 4:11 PM

reinstatement of the doctrine dosent require an act of congress its the fcc that decides now its 3 republicans and 2 democrats that is gonna change in a new administration

rico101 on November 14, 2008 at 4:11 PM

The Obamanation of Obamunism cannot exist in a world with free speech.

tarpon on November 14, 2008 at 4:12 PM

this schumer is just impossible to listen to

joey24007 on November 14, 2008 at 4:14 PM

If they try to bring out the Fairness Doctrine, we have more ammunition this time. Let’s document the one-sided coverage of Obama worship in the TV media and insist that NBS, ABS, ClintonNewsNetwork, CBS and MSDNC all have to give conservatives equal time! Surely, this doesn’t only pertain to radio!

Christian Conservative on November 14, 2008 at 4:17 PM

I move that no more videos of that dog turd, Chuck Schumer, ever be posted on this site.

Percy_Peabody on November 14, 2008 at 4:19 PM

No one’s talking about the Fairness Doctrine?

Do liberals hate George Bush, Rush Limbaugh?

That’s the same revulsion liberals have for you, me, all conservatives who dare to dissent and just as soon as they can get away with it, we’ll be silenced.

Speakup on November 14, 2008 at 4:24 PM

And would the Censorship Doctrine apply to PBS and Air America too ?

Mark_Tampa on November 14, 2008 at 4:24 PM

Ahhh yes, a little bait and switch!

TrickyDick on November 14, 2008 at 4:27 PM

I move that no more videos of that dog turd, Chuck Schumer, ever be posted on this site.

Percy_Peabody on November 14, 2008 at 4:19 PM

Amend it to include his voice, shadow, name, or any reference no matter how oblique, and I’ll second.

Akzed on November 14, 2008 at 4:29 PM

Fair time for those with and without hairplugs.

The Race Card on November 14, 2008 at 4:29 PM

I managed a radio station for fifteen years in eastern Washington State. Many of those years during the Clinton terms.

If the FD is reinstated, along with talk radio, I guarantee that local news will also be destroyed. There is no sense trying to fight government regulations. It’s easier, and more profitable by simply avoiding them altogether.

If anything can be construed as controversial and potentially expose a station to the “Doctrine”, more often than not, the station will not air it. Especially small stations.

Viacom and Clear Channel can absorb the occasional $10K hit for fairness or indecency. But one fine means sudden death to many small broadcasters.

The ultimate result is to render the entire industry as irrelevant. Most stations will revert back to being nothing more than jukeboxes or go dark rather than lose control of programming.

This is not about “Diversity”. There are numerous studies proving that diversity suffers when the Marketplace of Ideas is stifled. The real goal is expanded power of the D.C. oligarchy….

Ace ODale on November 14, 2008 at 4:30 PM

THIS IS A FAKE CONTROVERSY AND A DISTRACTION FROM THE REAL ISSUES

lodge on November 14, 2008 at 4:32 PM

With the Democrats having the upper hand on the internet, they’re suddenly not as eager to impose equal time. Why kill the goose that lays the golden egg?

RightOFLeft on November 14, 2008 at 4:33 PM

Just to add more fuel to the fire we have this from Media Matters.

Just A Grunt on November 14, 2008 at 4:34 PM

THIS IS A FAKE CONTROVERSY AND A DISTRACTION FROM THE REAL ISSUES

lodge on November 14, 2008 at 4:32 PM

I came down here at the bottom to post the same thing…put this dog to sleep, it ain’t going to happen.

right2bright on November 14, 2008 at 4:35 PM

And would the Censorship Doctrine apply to PBS and Air America too ?

Mark_Tampa on November 14, 2008 at 4:24 PM

Seriously think about it. Do YOU think it would?

upinak on November 14, 2008 at 4:35 PM

There is nothing Fair or Balanced about the demokrat definition of diversity.

Might as well name it for what it’s actually intended.
Unfairness Doctrine

Kini on November 14, 2008 at 4:37 PM

Chuckie Schumer doesn’t have the balls to be the sponsor for re-implementation of the Fairness Doctrine.

If Rush, Beck, Hannity, et al were forced off any radio stations due to the Democrats meddling, there would be Civil insurrection.

On second thought, Chuckie, “bring it on.”

there it is on November 14, 2008 at 4:38 PM

“And would the Censorship Doctrine apply to PBS and Air America too ?

Mark_Tampa on November 14, 2008 at 4:24 PM”

Why of course not, those esteemed broadcasters send out the “right message” so the left is happy to say that they are “inherently fair”. Nobody is as dishonest as a Democrat, NOBODY.

Webrider on November 14, 2008 at 4:38 PM

And would the Censorship Doctrine apply to PBS and Air America too ?

Mark_Tampa on November 14, 2008 at 4:24 PM

Of course not. These are two examples of fine journalism, that has equal time, and no noticeable bias.

Wow i actually typed that without laughing.

MDWNJ on November 14, 2008 at 4:39 PM

I love it: HA commenters saying “no, they’d never do this…we won’t stand for it!”

Newsflash: “they” don’t give a happy damn what you think. If Schumer, Bingaman, Pelosi, Reid and, most of all, Osama Obama want the FD, it’ll happen. As has been pointed out, it doesn’t have to go through Congress, and once The Messiah gets a couple of pet judges on the Supremes, no problem there either.

And don’t forget that when “they” write, enforce, and judge the rules, “equal time” only means what they want it to mean. Expect Rash Limbaugh to get part of the “Coast to Coast AM” time slot and Sen Al Franken to get his choice of morning or afternoon drive times….

MrScribbler on November 14, 2008 at 4:40 PM

All of these hair-brained ideas from the Left never cease to amaze me. Their legislation alwasy seems to destroy more than do any good.

danjrussell on November 14, 2008 at 4:40 PM

The CLBPI Pretty in Mink calendar is a smokin. However I think it is unfair to PETA. These women are classier and hotter than naked PETA tarts could ever be. And they didn’t have to get naked. That is unfair.

The damn doctrine will just have to apply to looks too.

The Race Card on November 14, 2008 at 4:41 PM

Ain’t gonna happen.

This idea is going to run right into the network of black talk radio stations that was substantially expanded in the last year or two. They will not accept a renewed fairness doctrine.

Femlin on November 14, 2008 at 4:43 PM

Viacom and Clear Channel can absorb the occasional $10K hit for fairness or indecency. But one fine means sudden death to many small broadcasters.

It will go farther than that.
I was just looking at the number of radio stations before the doctrine was abolished in the ’80s and now. Now there are nearly 5,000 AM stations compared to 1900 then. Now there are nearly 10,000 FM stations compared to 3200 then. Much of that gain has been talk radio, both AM and FM. Rather than deal with the hassle of dealing with lawsuits from the opposing points of view, the stations will change to those wonderful gardening and fishing shows, music or shutdown altogether because no one will buy advertising. I would venture to say that 1/2 of those stations would shut down creating more unemployment.

My lib friends did not realize that that knife will cut both ways and the right will shut down those left wing shows like Ed Schultz with lawsuits. Suddenly, they are writing letters against the reinstatement of the un-fairness doctrine. Need to get the word out, because this issue, like illegal immigration, is something that most of American can agree on regardless of political views.

gstrickler on November 14, 2008 at 4:45 PM

They just don’t want to use resources on Limbaugh that could be used elsewhere. Yet.
Randy

williars on November 14, 2008 at 4:45 PM

The Fairness Doctrine as it is currently written does not apply to satellite radio, which unless they plug that hole hopefully will mean that talk radio will simply move to Sirius/XM thereby boosting the satellite radio companies while spelling the death of AM radio.
They may move to streaming over the internet which may be a little trickier since they would still be associated with a radio station, but as of today the FEC only controls over the air public airwaves of TV and radio.

Just A Grunt on November 14, 2008 at 4:46 PM

Will it pass? I don’t think it would

Pass what Ed? It only takes three of the five FCC board members to make it happen. Two Democrats, two Republicans and the chairman. All five are appointed by the president. There is no vote, simple administrative action is all it will take.

It’s clear that the Obama people don’t remotely consider that he will over reach and suffer an unanticipated consequence. This could be a done deal by 02/-1/09

E9RET on November 14, 2008 at 4:47 PM

I move that no more videos of that dog turd, Chuck Schumer, ever be posted on this site.

Percy_Peabody on November 14, 2008 at 4:19 PM

And I will thank you to not use the word’s “dog” and “Chuck Schumer” in the same sentence again, sir.

anniekc on November 14, 2008 at 4:48 PM

Just A Grunt on November 14, 2008 at 4:46 PM

I was just going to ask that question. Thanks.

danjrussell on November 14, 2008 at 4:49 PM

and if this does happen! there will be protests in Washington! local offices of Dems will be in trouble!
IT WILL GET UGLY!

time2taketheglovesoffGOP on November 14, 2008 at 5:06 PM

Yes, we’ll be getting a revivified Fairness Doctrine–or a variant so close to the original–one no doubt agreed-upon after much ‘reaching across the aisle’ to Senator McCain and his equally moderate and bipartisan pals…wait. I’m sorry. Did I sound bitter and betrayed? Anyway, there’ll be more than just Fairness Doctrine coming our way. Wait until they start bringing up hate speech legislation and ‘Internet Neutrality’. Look: the best way for Dems to ensure reelection in two and four years is not to actually accomplish positive things while in power; but rather, to solidify their hold on the media. One achieves that end by cultivating alliances with those already sympathetic and shutting down those who aren’t. But conservatives say, ‘Hey, Reagan overcame media bias!’ Yes, he did. Almost thirty years ago, after four long years of Jimmy Carter and with a press that still half-believed in objectivity as a journalistic standard.

troyriser_gopftw on November 14, 2008 at 5:09 PM

The DemoNazi Party has spoken of things to come. Heil Obama…

DL13 on November 14, 2008 at 5:17 PM

So, the Democrats bring it back, and the next day we start flooding the FCC with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of specific complaints about, say, “the View”. Copied to our Senators and Representatives, of course.

Let’s just apply ACORN’s voter registration process to the government.

malclave on November 14, 2008 at 5:20 PM

You people are being silly. The ‘Fairness Doctrine’ will just require fair and balanced reporting.

George Will, Chris Buckley, David Gergen, Andrew Sullivan, Colin Powell, Scott McClellan, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, Kathleen Parker, Sally Quinn, and David Frum will always be there to defend true conservatism and I am sure will be the ones called upon to represent our views. So its not like conservatives will be driven from the media. So cheer up!

/A great deal of sarcasm here.

sharrukin on November 14, 2008 at 5:27 PM

My white a$$ they won’t try to pass it.

Look: the best way for Dems to ensure reelection in two and four years is not to actually accomplish positive things while in power; but rather, to solidify their hold on the media
troyriser_gopftw on November 14, 2008 at 5:09 PM

Oh yeah. You hit it right on the head.

Badger40 on November 14, 2008 at 5:28 PM

The DemoNazi Party has spoken of things to come. Heil Obama…

DL13 on November 14, 2008 at 5:17 PM

All hail O! It’s a fantasy oriented cult made up from the many little people and “the One” that owns them anyway.

Speakup on November 14, 2008 at 5:43 PM

So let me get this straight……….We are emulating France for their socialism, Venezuala for its media suppression and Israel for its national army induction.

Thank you Mr. President of the World. Please let us know when you will be officially changing the English language as well, as I saw Rosetta Stone was one of your biggest campaign contributors.

Merci!

sherry on November 14, 2008 at 6:08 PM

I may be wrong, but I believe all that is required is for the FCC to act. I don’t believe the Fairness Doctrine was ever a law.

vegasguy on November 14, 2008 at 6:57 PM

These freaks are determined to kill our nation.

marklmail on November 14, 2008 at 6:58 PM

The issue at hand is the Media’s continuing practice of manufacturing and marketing fiction as fact along with selective reporting to support a proven bias agenda. Ultimately we the people will become an uninformed, ignorant herd of sheep…..All Hail!

dmann on November 14, 2008 at 6:59 PM

I want to follow the Prairie Home Complainer on NPR with an expose: “Obama’s Sh*tty Friends.”

whitetop on November 14, 2008 at 7:16 PM

Seriously, there is only one way to combat the reinstatement of the FD.

Rush will have to call for a Dittohead March.

I’m not kidding. Only the biggest march on Washington, DC in history will put a stop to it.

I will drop whatever I am doing and GO if he says so to protest indefintely in DC the FD.

You don’t win struggles by sitting on the sidelines. We would only have ourselves to blame if we didn’t.

Sapwolf on November 14, 2008 at 7:27 PM

Sapwolf on November 14, 2008 at 7:27 PM

I brought this up last night. We should call it the “million listeners march”. When/if the dems even remotely bring this up after Jan.20th, the bloggers, radio, tv, jump on this and organize. I’ll be going in a heartbeat.
We’re not going down, we’re not giving in to this crap.

katy on November 14, 2008 at 7:45 PM

I would rather take an icepick to my ear than listen to Schumer.

Even if he took over the Publisher’s Clearinghouse giveaways, I think I’d have to decline.

sheesh on November 14, 2008 at 8:02 PM

Seriously, can you imagine what a party it would be in DC. Rush, Hannity, Nugent, Ingrahm, Palin, and a couple a million conservatives. OMG!!!!
The Take Back America March!

katy on November 14, 2008 at 8:13 PM

THIS IS A FAKE CONTROVERSY AND A DISTRACTION FROM THE REAL ISSUES
lodge on November 14, 2008 at 4:32 PM

I came down here at the bottom to post the same thing…put this dog to sleep, it ain’t going to happen.
right2bright on November 14, 2008 at 4:35 PM

Actually it is not a FAKE. Do you listen to the DEMS? Do you realize that they may have a filibuster proof Senate?

Lodge…and of course we can only handle one or two issues. Better not address this one. It is just too much for us rightwingers. //sarc off

Jamson64 on November 14, 2008 at 9:55 PM

“The airwaves are owned by private companies at this point“, what the hell do you think that means?!

kellyjane on November 14, 2008 at 9:55 PM

dmann on November 14, 2008 at 6:59 PM

What do you mean, ultimately?

OldEnglish on November 14, 2008 at 11:33 PM

When the Fascist Doctrine gets passed by our new overlords there will be a major court challenge to that, and should someone set up a fund to pay for it I’ll be sending in my cash.

Our Constitution must be protected at all costs. Our meager liberties are at stake, and any weakening of the Constitution weakens us all.

DannoJyd on November 15, 2008 at 7:03 AM

Spot on analysis, Ed.

Add Nancy Pelosi to the list of Dems in favor of this. From Wiki -

On June 24, 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who represents most of San Francisco, California) told reporters that her fellow Democratic Representatives did not want to forbid reintroduction of the Fairness Doctrine, adding “the interest in my caucus is the reverse.” When asked by John Gizzi of Human Events, “Do you personally support revival of the ‘Fairness Doctrine?’”, the Speaker replied “Yes.”

Whether they find it politically unfeasible to specifically restore it is debatable. Didn’t a Rasmussen poll show the peeps are in favor of this? I could forsee Obama saying he’s just following a mandate which is the will of the people.

In any case there are other things they can do through the back door to stifle speech via regulation, such as following through on Obama’s calls for more “diversity”:

“He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communication to as many diverse viewpoints as possible..”

What’s to stop them from saying, say, there are too many white males on the radio?

There are many ways to skin a cat.

Buy Danish on November 15, 2008 at 7:20 AM

Rainey seems to be trying far too hard to dismiss calls from senior leaders of the party for the FD…

Thanks, Ed. Garbage like this should not go unchallenged.

Rainey’s is obviously an agenda driven article, written by one of the same gang that likes tell us there would be no culture war if only we’d stop fighting it, and there is no war on Christmas, if only we’d stop saying Merry Christmas. It’s all our fault, because we choose to resist them.

petefrt on November 15, 2008 at 10:49 AM

What about a law against reporters just blatantly lying about what they’re writing about?

I hate speech laws, but I also hate the lying idiots who call themselves “journalists.”

Merovign on November 15, 2008 at 5:02 PM

The trouble with the “fairness doctrine” is obvious. Who decides what is news and what is opinion? If it applied to everyone equally it would still be bad but if some of the c**p that passes for news on the MSM is exempt then everything should be.

duff65 on November 15, 2008 at 6:12 PM

Of course, the eager Democrats will want to bring “balance and fairness” to newspapers, news magazines, TV news, and academia was well… fine with me to have 50% conservative college profs instead of 3%.

electric-rascal on November 16, 2008 at 3:41 AM