Frightful Fairness


By: Nathan Tabor

Every Halloween, it seems, is accompanied by at least one sequel to an existing horror movie franchise. You know the drill: (Monster/serial killer/evil puppetmaster) returns from (death/summer camp/outer space) to once again visit terror on (a peaceful town/young family/teenage idiots). At the movies, the Saw franchise is cashing in on its fourth chapter. While the legacy of Jigsaw continues to disgust and disturb moviegoers, left-wing activists are attempting to get their own sequel off the ground: Fairness Doctrine II: The Nightmare Continues!

Despite the fact that the Fairness Doctrine has been dead for 20 years (killed by the FCC, under Reagan), Media Matters and other liberal organizations have been agitating for its return. There are two scenarios which could see a reanimated Fairness Doctrine rise from its grave and return to terrorize the airwaves:

1) Congress could re-enact it by force of law. This is very unlikely, as 113 Democrats voted earlier this year to prevent the FCC from restoring the Fairness Doctrine for a period of one year. More importantly, such a bill would receive the ‘veto’ stamp the moment it landed on the president’s desk.

2) FCC commissioners are appointed by the president. If Hillary Clinton is elected president, she stocks the FCC with fellow liberals, who then reinstate the Fairness Doctrine at her urging.

The second scenario is far more likely, as Senator Clinton remains the candidate to beat. The Fairness Doctrine merely awaits resurrection at the hands of a liberal president.

In an attempt to drive a stake through the heart of this corpse, Rep. Mike Pence has drafted the Broadcaster Freedom Act, which would prevent Congress from funding the Fairness Doctrine, if it were ever re-enacted. The fact that it has thus far been blocked from reaching the House floor lends plausibility to the second scenario.

With the Fairness Doctrine in hand, President Clinton would have a powerful tool for quashing dissent and neutralizing bad press over the airwaves. Radio shows would now have to devote equal time to each side of every issue ever mentioned on the air. Faced with plummeting numbers and a mass exodus of advertising, station owners would almost certainly decide to cut their costs by getting rid of the political commentary and watering down the talk shows with less controversial fare. An entire medium of communication would be reduced to a low murmur, buried under an avalanche of restrictions and regulations.

Sound disturbing? Unfortunately, it would not be the first time that a president made use of a federal regulatory agency to silence dissent. Bill Ruder, assistant Secretary of Commerce to the Kennedy Administration admitted that in the 1960′s, “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.”

At present, Rep. Pence is making use of a discharge petition (which requires the support of 218 members) to bring the Broadcaster Freedom Act bill to the House floor. With 201 supporters, Pence needs 7 more members to call for a vote, Speaker Pelosi’s objections notwithstanding.

Now would be an excellent time for concerned citizens to call, write, or email their Democratic congressmen and urge them to support Pence’s petition. If the bill can be brought to the floor, Rep. Pence is confident that the Fairness act can be permanently buried, and the sooner the better. It appears that 2008 will see the premiere of at least one horror movie; namely, The Rise of Hillary. Frankly, I can’t stomach the thought of a double feature.

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