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DeMint, Thune, Pence & Walden Introduce Bill to Stop Fairness Doctrine

January 7, 2009

For Immediate Release: January 7, 2009
Office of U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina)

Contact: DEMINT – Wesley Denton (202) 228-5079
THUNE – Kyle Downey (202) 228-5939
PENCE – Matt Lloyd (202) 226-4379
WALDEN – Andrew Whelan (202) 226-7338

DeMint, Thune, Pence & Walden Introduce Bill to Stop Fairness Doctrine
Broadcaster Freedom Act would keep radio airwaves free from government censorship and suppression

Washington, D.C. – In an effort to prevent Democrats from suppressing the right to free speech for talk radio and other broadcasters, today Congressman Mike Pence (R-Indiana), chairman of the House Republican Conference, Congressman Greg Walden (R-Oregon), Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, and Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009 (S. 34 in the Senate, bill number pending in the House). The bill would prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, which would suppress free speech by requiring the government to monitor political views and decide what constitutes fair political discourse.

“The time has come to do away with the Fairness Doctrine once and for all,” said Congressman Pence. “Over the past few months, some of the most powerful Democrats in Congress have made their intentions to restore this Depression-era regulation clear. However, bringing back the Fairness Doctrine would amount to government control over political views expressed on the public airwaves. It is dangerous to suggest that the government should be in the business of rationing free speech.

“During my years in radio and television, I developed a great respect for a free and independent press. Since being in Congress, I have been the recipient of praise and criticism from broadcast media, but it has not changed my fundamental belief that a free and independent press must be vigorously defended by those who love liberty. I urge this Congress to send the Fairness Doctrine to the ash heap of broadcast history where it belongs,” said Congressman Pence.

Senator DeMint added, “Since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio has grown rapidly due to the power of the free market. We should not allow our government to suppress free speech by reversing this decision and regulating the marketplace of ideas.

“Democrats want to impose an unfair doctrine that destroys talk radio and silences the voices of millions of Americans who disagree with their vision for America. But the First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees the right of free speech, regardless of political affiliation, and this legislation will protect this sacred right,” said Senator DeMint.

Senator Thune said, “One of America’s greatest pillars of democracy and freedom is our Constitutional guarantee to exercise free speech. For over 200 years, the First Amendment has allowed Americans to voice opinions, thoughts and questions of their choosing without the fear of Government reprisal. This guarantee is now threatened by some liberal ideologues who are frustrated with the free flow of ideas on talk radio. The bill we have introduced will stop them in their tracks and help protect the vibrant marketplace of ideas we have today in our media. I advise every American to be hesitant when government officials offer to regulate the media in the name of ‘fairness.’ Our support for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech means that we must support the rights granted to even those with whom we disagree. Simply put, giving power to a few to impose ‘fairness’ in the media is a recipe for an Orwellian disaster.”

Congressman Walden, who owned and operated radio stations for more than 21 years and is part of a small town broadcast family that dates back to the 1930s, stated, “The founders would spin in their graves at the thought of the government censoring speech on many of today’s radio and television stations. Yet that’s just what some Democratic leaders seem to be after. Whether as a throwback to the old Fairness Doctrine or under a less controversial guise, any effort to exert government control over speech on the airwaves is an insult to the principles behind the First Amendment.”

The Fairness Doctrine was implemented by the FCC in 1949 in an attempt to ensure balanced and fair coverage of controversial subject matter by broadcasters. In 1985, the FCC determined that the Fairness Doctrine was no longer necessary due to the emergence of a “multiplicity of voices in the marketplace.” The FCC was also of the view that the Fairness Doctrine may have violated the First Amendment. In a 1987 case, the courts declared that the doctrine was not mandated by Congress and the FCC did not have to continue to enforce it. Twice, Congress has passed legislation restoring the Fairness Doctrine, but Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush vetoed the bills.

The DeMint-Thune Senate bill, S. 34, has 24 cosponsors including Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Christopher Bond (R-Missouri), Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) John Ensign (R-Nevada), Michael Enzi (R-Wyoming), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), Mel Martinez (R-Florida), Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), David Vitter (R-Louisiana), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

The Pence-Walden bill in the House already has over 100 cosponsors including Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio), Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), John Carter (R-Texas), David Dreier (R-California), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Kevin McCarthy (R-California), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Michigan), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Washington), Tom Price (R-Georgia), Adam Putnam (R-Florida), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), and Fred Upton (R-Michigan).


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