Free speech yes, fairness doctrine no

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly planning, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and other leading Democratic congressmen, a campaign to restore enforcement by the Federal Communications Commission of the so-called Fairness Doctrine.

The Fairness Doctrine was a product ofthe regulatory mindset of the New Deal era and required federally licensed broadcasters to devote a certain amount of time to controversial issues and in a fair manner. That was the theory.

In fact, the Fairness Doctrine was nothing more than a sugar-coated cliché for Big Brother Washington bureaucrats and their political masters in the White House policing political expression across the country. Most of the regulatory manacles used to enforce the Fairness Doctrine were dropped in 1987, and the Clinton administration ended enforcement in 2000 of the equal time requirement.

Interested citizens who care about preserving freedom of political expression in America are encouraged to read “The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the First Amendment” by former CBS News President Fred Friendly.

Liberals have been complaining about media bias and threatening to bring back the Fairness Doctrine ever since talk radio became a powerful alternative outlet for conservatives.

Under the guise of requiring “fairness,” the idea is to use government to force Rush Limbaugh of talk radio, Sean Hannity of Fox News, Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention and others to divide their air time with liberals who disagree with them.

The idea might seem palatable on the surface — there is a strong desire for fairness in the American psyche and the idea that irresponsible broadcasters are spreading misinformation is innately distasteful. And certainly such regulation would go over well in San Francisco, no hotbed of conservative talk radio.

What advocates of Fairness Doctrine restoration never point out, however, is that enforcement by definition means government bureaucrats become the arbiters of acceptable political expression, as well as permissible religious opinion. As the Friendly book details, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations regularly used the FCC to silence unapproved conservatives and religious figures.

Clearly, today’s liberals hope to enable a Democrat inaugurated as the nation’s chief executive in January 2009 to repeat a regrettable chapter in American history.

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