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02.01.2009 0

(Un)Fairness Doctrine: parsing Obama

  • On: 02/27/2009 15:13:59
  • In: First Amendment
  • ALG Editor’s Note: In the following featured commentary, the Hill’s newest, esteemed columnist Cheri Jacobus notes how incremental government actions will ultimately suppress the freedom of the airwaves:

    (Un)Fairness Doctrine: parsing Obama

    By Cheri Jacobus

    What is the Obama administration’s agenda regarding the (Un)Fairness Doctrine? It all depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

    The word from White House spokesman Ben LaBolt is, “As the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated.” Did he mean President Obama opposes the Fairness Doctrine, but won’t stand in the way of regulatory revival? Will Obama veto legislation? Will he fight the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on backdoor measures allowing a localism argument to push through censorship? Obama mouthpiece Robert Gibbs and adviser David Axelrod seem to be kicking this pebble to the FCC, claiming Obama will let them handle it.

    It’s a sleight of hand. Obama knows it, and is misleading us about his true agenda to censor conservative talk radio. If President Obama does anything short of everything in his power to stop censorship of conservative talk radio, he is essentially saying we’re all just too stupid to understand what he was articulating, or he’ll flat out deny his FCC under-radar machinations to silence free speech.

    The danger in the White House statement lying on the table in its current form is that it is open to interpretation, allowing Obama to have it both ways and claim he never misled or sought to obfuscate. After all, he is a master politician, adept at speaking out of both sides of his mouth, as we have (painfully) learned with the stimulus package and the manner in which it was constructed — in a non-bipartisan manner, behind closed doors with zero transparency, and with only the eyeballs of congressional Democrats and lobbyists upon it (though candidate Obama campaigned on precisely the opposite).

    And what’s a lump of censorship and the murder of free speech when it only took a matter of weeks to kneecap capitalism? Enemies and frienemies around the world, jealous of our success and freedoms, have tried to bring America to her knees, but it seems we can achieve this nefarious goal ourselves with the creeping incremental localism chipping away at our freedoms.

    Reporters need to ask clear and direct questions of Obama’s likely FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, and then force a White House response. Let the parsing begin!

    The question “What is the administration’s position on the Fairness Doctrine?” is made even more confusing by the president’s statements as a U.S. senator and how they seem diametrically opposed to what he is trying to make us believe is his position today.

    President Obama is telling us one thing, but will do the polar opposite. He will look us in the eye and say he is not misleading the public. Maybe he’ll even wag his finger at us.

    While Obama has rushed thunderously towards national control over everything from healthcare and education to banks, roads, bridges and cars, he is poised to quietly, incrementally and with graceful deception silence conservative talk radio, all the while claiming he is doing no such thing. He’s putting in place the structure at the FCC to put the “localism” rule on steroids, resulting in local radio stations dumping syndicated programming, hostage to the demands of a few dissenting voices in individual communities. Radio stations can literally be forced to dump Limbaugh, Hannity et al, if there is a single complaint that the station is “not serving local needs” or risk losing their license.

    In 2007, Obama voiced support of localism in written hearing testimony, stating, “I fully endorse a call for new rules calling for greater coverage of local issues, greater responsiveness of broadcasters to the communities they operate in. I also believe that broadcasters’ license renewal requests, the periodic review required to ensure that broadcasters are complying with their public interest obligations to local communities for using the public spectrum, should require greater FCC scrutiny and public input should occur more frequently.”

    With a mere three out of five FCC votes required to get the ball rolling, senators need to be aggressive in their questioning during commissioner confirmation hearings. Anything less is malpractice.

    Cheri Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.

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