Fairness Doctrine Amendment To DC Voting Rights Act Bill: Statement Of Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director


The Fairness Doctrine was never on the table except in the minds of talk radio hosts and those seeking their favor on Capitol Hill. Today's use of the Fairness Doctrine by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) in an offered amendment to the DC Voting Right Act bill was nothing more than a Trojan horse. The Fairness Doctrine title was only to offer cover from talk radio for those who would vote for the amendment.

In reality the amendment was an attempt to restrict the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) ability to enforce the laws already on the books governing local news and information, children's programming and public safety. Those laws serve a vitally important public interest. The amendment was an egregious attempt to interfere with the agency's effectiveness and lawful jurisdiction. This move as part of the DC Voting Rights legislation reveals the true agenda at play in dredging up a faux controversy over the Fairness Doctrine.

Those of us who have long been proponents of robust public interest obligations for broadcasters who use for free the publicly owned airwaves to make millions and millions of dollars recognize that this recent effort to gin up concern about reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine is a straw man. What was put before the Senate today in the DeMint Amendment was a bald effort to strip the FCC of its powers to ensure the nation's airwaves serve the citizens and not simply enrich the broadcast industry.

No one should be fooled by this clear attempt to rile up the conservative grassroots by pretending that there is a threat where none exists. The threat is that posed by Sen. DeMint and his allies who would hamstring a federal agency which is by statute charged with ensuring the nation's airwaves serve the public interest. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) should be commended for his effort to narrow the DeMint amendment.