10.01.2008 0

Arrest the speech police

  • On: 10/15/2008 13:29:48
  • In: First Amendment

  • ALG Editor’s note: The following featured editorial covers how Democrats are planning to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, an issue that ALG News covered just last week in presenting the first-ever Vidkun award to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):

    Return to the Fairness Doctrine has chilling implications
    Augusta Chronicle Editorial Staff
    Augusta, GA
    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Today’s quiz: Can you name the country whose new leaders want the government to impose strict government controls on broadcast speech?

    Nope. Not Venezuela. Not Cuba. Not even Putin’s Russia.

    It’s the country formerly known as the United States of America.

    Some Democrats, who now control Congress and are pining for the White House, want to bring back the Orwellian “Fairness Doctrine,” in which the federal government monitors all broadcast speech in the name of “fairness” and decides if stations need to have more opposing viewpoints heard.

    Shouldn’t the free market decide that?

    And has the free market ever done a better job of it?

    The Fairness Doctrine was in force from 1949 until 1987, when it was deemed outdated due to the proliferation of consumer choices and, yes, different viewpoints.

    The problem is, most of the viewpoints that have flourished since then have been conservative ones. With the explosion of talk radio, the Internet and cable news, conservative views have seen expression as never before — certainly more so than when three liberal network news operations and the New York Times set the nation’s news and analysis tempo.

    So, some liberals want the government to step in and demand that successful conservative broadcasts are counterbalanced by an equal amount of liberal views — because they can’t achieve that balance competing on a level playing field.

    Again, why not let listeners decide that? Isn’t that what they do in a free country?

    It is more than a little frightening that such figures as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi support the reimposition of government manipulation of the airwaves under the Fairness Doctrine. She admitted her support in a recent interview. And she refuses to allow a floor vote on a bill prohibiting the doctrine from coming back.

    Democratic nominee-to-be Barack Obama has said he “doesn’t support” the Fairness Doctrine. But that’s different from opposing it. It’s possible the tepid “doesn’t support it” could change or simply yield under pressure from his Democratic colleagues. And, as columnist and Phoenix radio talk show host Austin Hill notes, Obama once was a huge proponent of spending limits under public financing of presidential campaigns — until he found he could raise a lot of money and spend it with no limits.

    Might he also change his position on the Fairness Doctrine?

    Back in broadcasting’s infancy, an argument could be made that the limited number of broadcast outlets required some government watchdogging. Now, however, a return to the Fairness Doctrine would be an attempt not to allow more speech, but to rein it in.

    That should scare all of us, regardless of our political views.

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