The president isn’t going to blame the Democrats – yet – for not fully supporting a plan that would assure broadcasters in the United States their freedom from government-imposed censorship on their views and comments.
The issue concerns the ongoing battle over the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” by which the federal government used to require radio broadcasters to “balance” their comments between conservative and liberal viewpoints.
There have been a multitude of calls in recent years for that doctrine to be reasserted by the federal government, in light of the overwhelming success of more traditional perspectives on radio airwaves today.
A spokeswoman for President Bush today said he doesn’t believe there’s any need for such censorship.
“The president believes that the First Amendment, freedom of speech and the press, should not be denied to radio and television by the so-called Fairness Doctrine, doesn’t he?” asked Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House.
“That’s correct,” said Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman.
“Republican congressman Mike Pence of Indiana has introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act, which needs only 24 more signatures on a discharge petition to go to the House floor for a vote. And my question: Since, in the House, both of Maryland’s Republicans have supported the Broadcaster Freedom Act, but all six of Maryland’s Democrats have refused to do so, the president recognizes this as an indication the Democrats generally want the return of the Fairness Doctrine’s on-air censorship, doesn’t he?,” Kinsolving continued.
“I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case, but it sounds like you have some lobbying work to do up on Capitol Hill, so we should dispatch you up there and see if you can get it done,” Perino said.
CBS then noted, “He (Kinsolving) is not allowed to lobby and hold a press pass at the same time, remind him.”
While that generated a laugh, the issue of “Fairness” censorship is serious for broadcasters around the nation.
Pence, in introducing his plan earlier, noted the Federal Communications Commission and its precursor developed the “Fairness Doctrine” in the 1930s and 1940s, but it fell by the wayside under President Ronald Reagan’s veto in 1985.
“The lifting of the Fairness Doctrine has opened the public airwaves to free and vigorous discussion of controversial issues by individuals of all political stripes,” he said. “Talk radio has emerged as a dynamic forum for public debate.”
But he said the recent discussion has focused on “the need to level the playing field … A liberal think tank recently condemned what they called the ‘massive imbalance’ on the radio airwaves.”
“Bringing back the Fairness Doctrine would amount to government control over political views expressed on the public airwaves. It is a dangerous proposal to suggest the government should be in the business of rationing free speech,” he said.
Pence, a former broadcaster, said his Broadcasters Freedom Act would ensure that “true freedom and fairness will remain on our radio airwaves.”
He now is trying to assemble the signatures on a discharge petition that would force a House floor vote on the issue. The Indiana Republican needs two dozen more.
WND reported earlier when Bush expressed the opinion that the doctrine is “Orwellian.”
Former White House spokesman Tony Snow also told WND when he held the post that the Fairness Doctrine is not needed, even though Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has lobbied for the provision.
In a column, WND founder and editor Joseph Farah, issued a warning about what would be coming if Democrats retain control of the Senate and House in November.
“Prepare for a major, frontal assault on the First Amendment – perhaps the worst in American history,” he wrote, citing a letter written by U.S. Senate President Harry Reid, D-Ariz., to talk radio superstar Rush Limbaugh’s network several months ago, demanding he apologize for something he never said.
“It was a shot across the bow by an arrogant group of petty, wannabe tyrants who would, if they could, use the coercive power of the state to stifle all dissenting views,” Farah warned.
“They would do it under the rubric of ‘hate speech’ legislation. They would do it with the rationalization of ‘fairness’ and ‘accuracy’ – two qualities they wouldn’t recognize if they tripped over them. They would do it in the name of campaign finance reform. In fact, they would do it without any excuse whatsoever,” he continued.
“To them, the First Amendment doesn’t actually protect the inalienable right to free speech and the free press. It only protects their speech and their press. They want a monopoly on media. They had it once and they got spoiled. They decided they can’t live without it any more.”
He said come January 2009, if Reid still is running the Senate and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., still is running the House, “they are going to pass a law bringing back the so-called ‘Fairness Doctrine.’ If Barack Obama is in the White House, he will sign it.”
Do you have a tough question you’d like to ask the White House? WND’s MR. PRESIDENT! forum is your big chance.