House panel blocks effort to bar revival of Fairness Doctrine

Friday, July 24, 2009

The House Rules Committee this month blocked an attempt to bar a revival of the “Fairness Doctrine” for over-the-air broadcasting. It marks the second time this year the committee has voted the ban down.

The proposal by Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Mike Pence, R-Ind., would have prevented the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, which it abandoned in 1987. The rule required broadcasters to give fair coverage to each side of controversial issues, but was opposed by many First Amendment advocates who said it had a chilling effect on political speech.

The Rules Committee’s July 14, party-line vote prevented the full House from considering the ban in the form of an amendment to an appropriations bill. The committee is chaired by Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who previously sponsored legislation to revive the Fairness Doctrine. Slaughter was joined by six other Democrats on the committee in defeating the proposed ban.

Pence said he was “profoundly disappointed” with the decision.

“The First Amendment is not a partisan issue,” Pence said in a news release. “The preservation of freedom is the paramount duty of every elected Representative and should take precedence over partisan politics.”

The committee took nearly identical action in February, defeating a similar amendment by Pence to a different appropriations bill. Pence also introduced separate legislation (H.R. 226) to ban the Fairness Doctrine, but the House Committee on Energy and Commerce never considered it.

A Senate version of the ban, offered by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was amended into an unrelated bill (S. 160), but that measure has stalled in Congress.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said during his recent confirmation hearing that he had no plans to revive the Fairness Doctrine.

Tags: , ,