A spokesman for President Barack Obama has dodged a question about Democrats’ plans to resurrect the decades-old restrictions of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” which died as unconstitutional and unneeded during the Reagan presidency.
A number of Democrat s have raised the issue of resurrecting the plan that once held sway at the Federal Communications Commission in order to “balance” the airwaves and even Obama’s own White House website states there are plans to review the “obligations” of broadcasters ” who “occupy the nation’s spectrum.”
Obama and several Democratic organizations also have publicly attacked talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh since taking office, warning Republicans they won’t get things done by listening to, and presumably following, his advice.
Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House, raised the issue at a White House news briefing.
The dialogue went like this:
LES KINSOLVING, WCBM Radio: Can I follow that up?
ROBERT GIBBS, White House Press Secretary: Yes sir.
KINSOLVING: Thank you, so much. A number of Democrats in Congress want to restore the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which, before it was repealed applied only to electronic media and not to any print media-
GIBBS: Lester, I thought we were talking about DTV.
KINSOLVING: Does the president believe that-
MALE REPORTER: This is on the same planet, I believe.
GIBBS: I’m pretty sure I did not, I don’t think I got an answer to my question. I think we were talking about DTV and now we seem to be, somewhat, I’m going to go back to baseball [analogies], far afield on the Fairness Doctrine.
KINSOLVING: Since you mentioned it, from the field, does the president believe-
MALE REPORTER mockingly: Lester, far afield?
KINSOLVING: Does the president believe that this selectivity of some media and not others is fair? And if so, why?
GIBBS: I have no information on the Fairness Doctrine and I will endeavor to get some clarity on DTV.
The previous doctrine censored opinions on broadcast outlets, but of course did not impact the massive broadcast capabilities of today’s Internet, nor did it address print publications or wire services such as Associated Press.
He cited Obama’s warning to congressional Republicans that “you can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done” in suggesting the president has become the “driving force” behind a new “systematic” plan to “intimidate and demonize Obama’s opponents.”
That such a campaign was launched only days after Obama’s inauguration is “tremendously perturbing,” he wrote.
“Welcome to the politics of hope ‘n’ change. Obama’s startling attempt to hang Limbaugh’s scalp on the wall is a warning that the new ruler does not want unity – he demands it,” Ibrahim wrote.
On Obama’s agenda, according to his White House website, is the goal to “encourage diversity in media ownership.”
Obama elaborates on the site that his aim is to “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.”
The plan apparently aligns with longstanding Democratic suggestions to resurrect the so-called “Fairness Doctrine.”
The policy was abandoned in 1987 under President Reagan when there were 75 radio talk shows in the U.S. Reagan opposed the policy because it required broadcast TV and radio programs to air “opposing views” on political issues, which had the practical effect of virtually eliminating opinion programs.
Since abandonment of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, the number of radio talk shows has risen to more than 3,000.
WND founder and editor Joseph Farah long has warned about Democrats’ plans to revive restrictions on the airwaves.
“If the Democrats and their me-too Republican allies are successful at sacking talk radio, there will be no stopping them,” Farah warned. “Broadcast will be first. Then they will go after the Internet with taxes and new regulations and hate-crimes laws. And when they succeed at muzzling dissenting voices there, they will even turn to print. Remember, we are dealing with a neo-fascist mentality here.”
Many fear the so-called Fairness Doctrine would drive talk radio hosts – like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage – out of business.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., affirmed her support to Human Events reporter John Gizzi for a “Fairness” policy, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., told radio host Jim Villanucci, “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 [spectrum].”
Michael G. Franc, writing on the National Review’s “The Corner” blog, noted that attorney general nominee Eric Holder also has refused to commit to opposing to the idea.
Obama’s choice to head his FCC transition team, Democrat Henry Rivera, added to fear in media circles that the so-called Fairness Doctrine might return to silence conservative talk radio.
Brian Maloney of the blog The Radio Equalizer said in his post “Meet Talk’s Executioner” he believes Rivera will use his position to bring back the law for that very purpose.
Rivera, according to Maloney, “is expected to lead the push to dismantle commercial talk radio that is favored by a number of Democratic Party senators. Rivera will play a pivotal role in preventing critics from having a public voice during Obama’s tenure in office.”