Posted March 2, 2009 by Meredith McGehee
DeMint’s Red Herring
The re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine was never seriously considered by anyone --but was a useful red herring for talk radio hosts and those seeking their favor on Capitol Hill. Last week Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) proposed an amendment to the DC Voting Right Act bill using the specter of the reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine as the supposed threat.
DeMint’s amendment was merely as a political tactic and didn't even do what he claimed--instead it was actually 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 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.