Democratic Senator Tells Conservative Radio Station He’d Re-impose Fairness Doctrine--on Them
October 22, 2008A prominent liberal Democratic senator told a conservative talk radio station Tuesday that he hopes a new administration and Congress will re-impose the Fairness Doctrine on them and other radio and TV broadcasters.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) told radio station 770 AM KKOB in Albuquerque, N.M., that he didn’t know if Democrats in Congress will try to re-impose the Fairness Doctrine next year – but he would certainly like them to.
Bingaman told the station he would support re-imposition of the regulation – which was rescinded in 1987 – on the station.
The Fairness Doctrine, which was first implemented in 1949 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), technically forced broadcasters to "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance." Critics call it a “gag rule” on broadcasters.
Here’s a transcript of part of the interview with 770AM KKOB afternoon host Jim Villanucci:
Villanucci: You would want this radio station to have to change?
Bingaman: I would. I would want this station and all stations to have to present a balanced perspective and different points of view instead of always hammering away at one side of the political –
Villanucci: I mean in this market, for instance, you’ve got KKOB. If you want liberal talk, you’ve got Air America in this market, you’ve got NPR, you’ve got satellite radio – there’s a lefty talk station and a rightie talk station. Do you think there are people who aren’t able to find a viewpoint that is in sync with what they believe?
Bingaman: Well I guess my thought is that talk radio and media generally should have a higher calling than just reflect a particular point of view. I think they should use their authority to try to – their broadcast power to present an informed discussion of public issues. KKOB used to be a, used to live under the Fairness Doctrine, and every –
Villanucci: Yeah, we played music, I believe –
Bingaman: But there was a lot of talk also, at least it seemed to me, and there were a lot of talk stations that seemed to do fine. The airwaves are owned by private companies at this point. There’s a license to private companies to operate broadcast stations, and that’s the way it should be. All I’m saying is that for many, many years we operated under a Fairness Doctrine in this country, and I think the country was well-served. I think the public discussion was at a higher level and more intelligent in those days than it has become since.
In an interview with CNSNews.com Wednesday, Villanucci said that Bingaman was adamant about the need to balance conservative voices with liberals on the airwaves – and that his listeners called for four hours to oppose such a move.
“I guess the shocking part was to have a senator sitting across the table from me, basically threatening my job and my show on my show – (it) was kind of stunning,” the talk show host said.
Bingaman’s office confirmed that the senator supports efforts to reinstate the regulation, but Bingaman press secretary Jude McCartin said her boss has no plans to introduce any legislation himself toward that end.
Bingaman, by the way, is the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee – which does not have jurisdiction over communication issues.
The Democratic Party platform in 2000 called for the re-institution of the doctrine, and prominent congressional Democrats are on record in support of it.
In July, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told CNSNews.com that both he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) strongly supported legislation to reactivate the regulation, which many conservatives say is intended to silence conservative talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh.
A bill to permanently ban re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), will not be voted on this year, according to Hoyer.
In June, Broadcasting and Cable magazine reported a campaign spokesman for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) -- press secretary Michael Ortiz -- as saying that the Democratic presidential candidate “does not support re-imposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters."
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), meanwhile, is on record in oppsition to bringing back the doctrine.