June 28, 2007

Pence Amendment On Fairness Doctrine: Live Blog

I have heard from Rep. Mike Pence's office that debate on his amendment to bar the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine will begin shortly, perhaps around 1:30 ET. It should last 40 minutes, and I'll live-blog it. This is an important amendment, and I suspect it will not survive -- but we need to keep the heat on Congress to keep them from making the federal government the arbiter of the content of political speech.

Keep checking back!

Democrats say they will accept the amendment. Read below.

12:56 CT - Well, the House has debated a number of issues so far, but none of them Pence's amendment. I'll have to start show prep soon, but I'm hoping that the debate will start shortly. We'll see ...

1:00 - Pence is coming to the podium on his amendment now. 40 minutes of debate ...

1:02 - Pence notes that the Fairness Doctrine had a chilling effect on public debate. Broadcasters simply wouldn't risk their licenses in order to air public debate, because of the onerous burdens it placed on second-to-second management of content.

1:04 - Pence says that people claim that his amendment is unnecessary, but that within the last 48 hours, three senior Democrats have talked about reinstating the FD: Durbin, Kerry, Feinstein. Good, short speech.

1:07 - David Obey completely ignores the statements from three Democratic Senators and says no one in Congress has talked about resurrecting the FD. He then confuses broadcast media with the rest of the mainstream media. However, this seems a moot point, since the Democrats apparently will concede the amendment; even Obey shrugged it off.

1:10 - Jeff Flake rebukes Obey, in a friendly manner, by reading Durbin's quote.

1:10 - Dennis Kucinich now says that it's a non-issue -- even though he himself called for a return of the FD! He then talks about how the FCC "controls the airwaves".

1:14 - Kucinich darkly referred to future administrations resurrecting the FD -- and Pence sys that's precisely the point of the amendment. Diane Watson mischaracterizes everyone's argument, and then says only six corporations have control over public debate. Huh? We have the most open public debate in American history -- and part of that came from the removal of the federal government as arbiter of the content of broadcasts.

1:19 - Roy Blunt says market forces should prevail in public debate, rather than top-down government management of political content.

1:21 - Shorter Jose Serrano (D-NY): Trust us, the government will just put moderates on the air! He wants to know why the GOP wants to fix what's not broken, and the obvious answer is that we don't want the FCC and the Democrats to break it.

1:26 - Greg Walden: "It's not my fault that Air America couldn't find an audience!" He also reminded Congress that the courts have warned in the past that the FD was likely unconstitutional.

1:33 - A number of Republicans have made the point that the FD came from an era when the US had few broadcast stations, and few options for informing the public. Even if one accepted that the FD didn't violate free speech, today's society hardly requires the government to force broadcasters to carry speech for balance.

1:40 - It looks like the Democrats mostly gave up arguing about the amendment. It looks like they have yielded most of their time to the Republicans.

1:42 - I spoke too soon. David Obey quotes Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to scold "yap-yap TV" and talk radio for not demanding a Fairness Doctrine -- so we can get a balanced media. Is Obey ill? Does he not understand that the FD didn't apply to newspapers?

1:46 - Obey says, "I want to let Rush be Rush!" He says Rush is discredited and he wants to keep it that way. I think he's making this up as he's going along.

1:50 - The ayes had it, but the roll-call vote will be postponed. It looks like Pence wins.


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