Report: FCC staff meeting with Waxman aides about bringing back Fairness?

Too juicy not to post, too sketchy to take very seriously. It’s the Prowler, guys. Caveat emptor.

Senior FCC staff working for acting Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps held meetings last week with policy and legislative advisers to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to discuss ways the committee can create openings for the FCC to put in place a form of the “Fairness Doctrine” without actually calling it such.

Waxman is also interested, say sources, in looking at how the Internet is being used for content and free speech purposes. “It’s all about diversity in media,” says a House Energy staffer, familiar with the meetings. “Does one radio station or one station group control four of the five most powerful outlets in one community? Do four stations in one region carry Rush Limbaugh, and nothing else during the same time slot? Does one heavily trafficked Internet site present one side of an issue and not link to sites that present alternative views? These are some of the questions the chairman is thinking about right now, and we are going to have an FCC that will finally have the people in place to answer them.”…

“This isn’t just about Limbaugh or a local radio host most of us haven’t heard about,” says Democrat committee member. “The FCC and state and local governments also have oversight over the Internet lines and the cable and telecom companies that operate them. We want to get alternative views on radio and TV, but we also want to makes sure those alternative views are read, heard and seen online, which is becoming increasingly video and audio driven. Thanks to the stimulus package, we’ve established that broadband networks — the Internet — are critical, national infrastructure. We think that gives us an opening to look at what runs over that critical infrastructure.

Unusually menacing, fluidly articulate quotes from anonymous Democrats are a hallmark of Prowler items, especially those having to do with the Fairness Doctrine, but there’s a grain of plausibility here. FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Bush appointee, warned last summer that if the left took a run at bringing back Fairness, the ‘Net would be on their radar. The basic line of attack described in the quote, i.e. “localism,” is also familiar as a favored lefty strategy for sneaking in Fairness without calling it Fairness. The Center for American Progress hailed it in its 2007 report on how to “reform” talk radio and Boehner sent a letter to the FCC opposing it last year (scroll down to the last update). The one bit of good news? The public’s enthusiasm for reinstituting the doctrine has cooled since last year, according to a new poll from Rasmussen. A near-majority now oppose it, marking a sharp shift in just six months. I don’t know how to explain that except to chalk it up to the public’s wariness of one-party control, but at least we stand a chance of defeating it if The One lurches in this direction.

Exit question: If the FCC imposes it on the Net, which lefty should Hot Air hire to ensure “Fairness”?