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January 16, 2007
Kucinich To Bring Back The Fairness Doctrine

The continuing impact of the Democratic takeover of Congress has just gotten worse. In a little-noticed development from this weekend, Dennis Kucinich announced that he would use his position on a House government-reform subcommittee to focus on the Federal Communications Commission -- and that the Fairness Doctrine may make a comeback:

Over the weekend, the National Conference for Media Reform was held in Memphis, TN, with a number of notable speakers on hand for the event. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made an surprise appearance at the convention to announce that he would be heading up a new House subcommittee which will focus on issues surrounding the Federal Communications Commission.

The Presidential candidate said that the committee would be holding "hearings to push media reform right at the center of Washington.” The Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee was to be officially announced this week in Washington, D.C., but Kucinich opted to make the news public early.

In addition to media ownership, the committee is expected to focus its attention on issues such as net neutrality and major telecommunications mergers. Also in consideration is the "Fairness Doctrine," which required broadcasters to present controversial topics in a fair and honest manner. It was enforced until it was eliminated in 1987.

The Fairness Doctrine did not require broadcasters to present issues in a "fair and honest manner"; it required them to turn their stations into ping-ponging punditry if they allowed opinion to appear on the air at all. It created such a complicated formula that most broadcasters simply refused to air any political programming, as it created a liability for station owners for being held hostage to all manner of complaints about lack of balance.

Congress and the Reagan administration repealed the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980s, and it allowed a market for political opinion to flourish. It also revitalized the AM band, which had been badly eclipsed for music broadcasting during the 1970s due to the rise of static-free FM stations. Radio stations could air local and syndicated talk shows without having to worry about metering time between differing viewpoints, allowing the station owners to reflect the market and their own personal preferences for politcal viewpoints.

Why would Kucinich want to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine and kill off the AM band and talk radio? Because his allies have proven less successful than conservatives at building a market for their broadcasts. Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, and a slew of conservative thinkers carved out an industry out of the AM wilderness, and the Al Frankens and Wendy Wildes can't keep up without government intervention. Air America would lose as well in this scenario, but I'm sure Kucinich sees that as a fair trade, and for good reason.

Democrats aren't wasting much time in rolling back free speech now that they have the majority. Putting Kucinich in charge of domestic policy reform was no mistake on their part. They want to kill talk radio, and if they manage to hold their majority and win the White House in 2008, they just might do it.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 16, 2007 6:58 AM

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