Sen. DeMint offers ‘Fairness Doctrine’ amendment to D.C. voting rights bill

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) applauds Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) for offering the Broadcaster Freedom Act as an amendment to a D.C. voting rights bill in order to put the Senate on record as opposing the so-called Fairness Doctrine, better called the Censorship Doctrine for the impact it would have on political talk radio. The amendment is likely to receive a vote today.

The legislation survived a key Senate vote Tuesday, when lawmakers vote 62-34 to begin debate.

The amendment would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the Censorship Doctrine, which was repealed in 1987. President Barack Obama has said he does not support the return of the Fairness Doctrine, but in recent weeks several prominent lawmakers have voiced strong support for the return of a version of the draconian speech control.

“Sen. DeMint’s amendment will ensure that President Obama’s commitment to keeping the airwaves free of government censorship will be the law of the land,” said CCP President Sean Parnell. “However, supporters of the First Amendment need to remain vigilant so the FCC doesn’t bring back the Fairness Doctrine by another name – local control boards, diversity mandates or onerous license requirements.”

In January a coalition of U.S. Representatives and Senators favoring media freedom unveiled a bill designed to permanently ban the Censorship Doctrine, but it hasn’t been allowed a vote by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has expressed her support for the return of the government control of political speech on talk radio.

In 2007, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the sponsor of this year’s House version of the Broadcast Freedom Act, added an amendment to a Financial Services appropriations bill that placed a one-year moratorium on reinstatement of the Censorship Doctrine. The amendment passed with 309 votes, including 113 Democrats.

President Obama has said he does not favor reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine but he has expressed support for ‘local control’ boards and other FCC regulations that might have a similar chilling effect on speech in broadcast media. Obama will play a role in this debate by appointing new FCC members in the coming months.