|Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.|
WASHINGTON – Another Democratic U.S. senator has gone on record as supporting the reinstatement of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” adding, “I feel like that’s gonna happen.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told radio host and WND columnist Bill Press yesterday when asked about whether it was time to bring back the so-called “Fairness Doctrine”: “I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else – I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.”
Stabenow’s husband, Tom Athans, was executive vice president of the left-leaning talk radio network Air America. He left the network in 2006, when it filed for bankruptcy, and co-founded the TalkUSA Radio Network.
Asked by Press if she could be counted on to push for hearings in the Senate this year “to bring these (radio station) owners in and hold them accountable,” Stabenow replied: “I have already had some discussions with colleagues and, you know, I feel like that’s gonna happen. Yep.”
Meanwhile, as WND has previously reported, other Democratic legislators have tried to claim talk about a reintroduction of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” is merely conspiracy-mongering by right-wing talk radio and its partisan cheerleaders.
But other Democrats in the Senate and House – and even a few Republicans – have made no secret of their support for such legislation.
“For many, many years, we operated under a Fairness Doctrine in this country,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., told Albuquerque radio station KKOB last year. “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.”
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told WYNC’s Bryan Lehrer Show in 2007, “I think the Fairness Doctrine ought to be there and I also think equal time doctrine ought to come back.”
In June of last year, John Gizzi reported in Human Events a conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in which he asked her if she personally supported revival of the “Fairness Doctrine.”
“Yes,” Pelosi answered.
And as recently as December, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. – who serves on the Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – told the Palo Alto Daily Post she still believes in the “Fairness Doctrine” and will work on bringing it back.
“It should and will affect everyone,” Eshoo pledged.
Meanwhile, President Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told Broadcasting & Cable during the presidential election campaign, “Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters. He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible.”
But the debate heated up again recently when Obama singled out Rush Limbaugh, the king of talk radio, for criticism: “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”
As WND reported, the Democratic National Congressional Committee also launched a petition to reprimand Limbaugh directly for his criticism of Obama.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Bush appointee whose term runs through June, however, warned that Democrats may be adopting a stealthier approach to shutting down conservatives on talk radio.
In a speech to the Media Institute in Washington last week, Multichannel News reports, McDowell suggested there are efforts to implement the controversial policy without using the red-flagged “Fairness Doctrine” label.
“That’s just Marketing 101,” McDowell explained. “If your brand is controversial, make it a new brand.”
Instead, McDowell alleged, Democrats will try to disguise their efforts in the name of localism, diversity or network neutrality.
McDowell further suggested that the FCC may already be gearing up to enforce the “Fairness Doctrine” through community advisory boards that help determine local programming. While radio stations use the boards on a voluntary basis now, McDowell warned if the advisory panels become mandatory, “Would not such a policy be akin to a re-imposition of the Doctrine, albeit under a different name and sales pitch?”
And while Republicans’ prediction of “Fairness Doctrine” legislation remains unfulfilled and highly speculative, a WND investigation has revealed that McDowell and Walden aren’t just fear-mongering, as some have suggested. A think tank headed by John Podesta, co-chairman of Obama’s transition team, mapped out a strategy in 2007 for clamping down on talk radio using language that has since been parroted by both the Obama campaign and the new administration’s White House website.
In June of 2007, Podesta’s Center for American Progress released a report titled “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio,” detailing the conservative viewpoint’s dominance on the airwaves and proposing steps for leveling the playing field.
“Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system,” the report reads, “particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management.”
The report then demonstrates how radio stations owned locally, or operated by female and minority owners, are statistically more likely to carry liberal political talk shows.
Therefore, the report concludes, the answer to getting equal time for “progressives” lies in mandating “localism” and “diversity” without ever needing to mention the “Fairness Doctrine.”
To accomplish the strategy, the report recommends legislating local and national caps on ownership of commercial radio stations and demanding radio stations regularly prove to the FCC that they are “operating on behalf of the public interest” to maintain their broadcasting license.
And if stations are unwilling to abide by the FCC’s new regulatory standards, the report recommends, they should pay spectrum-use fees directly to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting “with clear mandates to support local news and public affairs programming and to cover controversial and political issues in a fair and balanced manner.”
In this way, the report concludes, between $100 million and $250 million could be raised for public radio, which will be compelled to broadcast via the old standards established by the ”Fairness Doctrine.”
Since the report’s release in 2007, the Obama camp has twice gone on record advocating positions identical to Podesta’s think tank.
Last summer, in denying the presidential candidate’s support of the “Fairness Doctrine,” Obama’s press secretary said, “Sen. Obama supports media-ownership caps, network neutrality, public broadcasting, as well as increasing minority ownership of broadcasting and print outlets.”
Further, the White House website lists on its technology agenda page that the president plans 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 president’s position and proposals match the language of his transition co-chair’s think tank report almost word-for-word.