Issue Position: Fairness Doctrine
Inhofe on the Issues: Fighting the Fairness Doctrine
"The Fairness Doctrine represents a serious threat to free speech and muzzles the expression of opinion I, for one, believe that issues and ideas, like candidates for public office, must stand on their own merits. In the marketplace of ideas, consumers will make the final decision on what is "fair.'" - Sen. Inhofe on the Fairness Doctrine
At the start of the 111th Congress, one of the first orders of business Sen. Inhofe undertook was the introduction of, S.62, the Broadcaster Freedom Act, to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. If enacted, the Fairness Doctrine would allow the FCC to regulate the content aired by broadcasters to bring "balance" to the airwaves. Since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and the rise of conservative talk radio, liberals have been fighting to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, representing a clear threat to free speech.
Sen. Inhofe has been a longtime champion of the Fairness Doctrine issue. He has opposed all efforts to reinstate any form of government censorship on the radio by introducing and cosponsoring legislation and by taking his message to the airwaves:
· Sponsored S. 62, the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009 and co-sponsored S.1748, the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2007, which would forbid the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.
· Co-sponsored Sen. Thune's amendment, S Amdt 611, to the Omnibus Appropriations bill to prevent the reinstating of the Fairness Doctrine.
· Co-sponsored Sen. DeMint's Fairness Doctrine amendment, S Amdt 573, which passed with an overwhelming majority of 87-11. However, just prior to this vote against the Fairness Doctrine, all 57 Democrat Senators voted for a stealth measure to allow the FCC to enforce radio ownership "diversity."
· Exposed the growing movement by Congressional Democrats to re-instate the Fairness Doctrine in 2007, and helped to ensure that Americans' First Amendment rights of free speech remained intact.
· Helped defeat an amendment by Sen. Harkin (D-Iowa) to the 2006 Defense Reauthorization Bill that would have regulated the content of programming available to American troops overseas.
· Co-sponsored Senate Amendment 2020 to the FY 2008 Department of Defense Authorization Bill, which would have prohibited the FCC from implementing the Fairness Doctrine in any programming.
Inhofe YouTube Message, Feb. 12, 2009: "It's about government dictating the content of talk radio and TV. It is a dangerous maneuver to enact more government "policing' of our airwaves. Now, with Democrats in control of the House, Senate and White House, the threat of its reenactment is more real than ever ."
FOX News: Democrats Consider Reviving 'Fairness Doctrine' "A political battle is brewing over control of the radio airwaves as Democrats consider pushing for the revival of the Fairness Doctrine, But Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe said radio programming should be based on what brings in listeners and advertisers." (2/12/09, FOX News' Molly Henneberg contributed to this report.)
Culture and Media Institute: Fairness Doctrine's Other Likely Victim: Christian Radio
"But, the return would also harm religious speech according to a senior Republican senator, James Inhofe, Okla., and the senior vice president of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), Craig Parshall. Both are warning religious broadcasting is facing a threat." (2/17/09, Jeff Poor)
Inhofe Floor Speech, Feb. 26, 2009: "While I am pleased to hear that President Obama has said he will oppose the Fairness Doctrine, I would like to see his words followed by action."
Human Events: Listen Up, While You Still Can: "The growing liberal affection for the idea of reining in talk radio should send a chill up any freedom lover's back .On January 7, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), along with Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) re-introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act to prevent the FCC from imposing the Fairness Doctrine. The bill is supported by the Free Speech Alliance, a coalition with more than 30 groups, including the American Civil Rights Union and the Media Research Center." (02/19/09, Robert H. Knight)
Liberals Threaten to bring the Fairness Doctrine Back:
Sen. Stabenow told liberal radio host Bill Press it may be, "time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves."
Sen. Harkin also commented to Bill Press, "Exactly, and that's why we need the fair -- that's why we need the Fairness Doctrine back."
Pres. Clinton said "well, you either ought to have the fairness doctrine or you ought to have more balance on the other side, because essentially there has always been a lot of big money to support the right-wing talk shows."
On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was asked last year if she supported the revival of the Fairness Doctrine. Her response was "Yes. the interest in my caucus is the reverse" and "Louise Slaughter [D-NY] has been active behind this [revival of the Fairness Doctrine] for a while now." (Heritage Foundation)
"Senate Democrats insist on keeping the idea of reviving the Fairness Doctrine alive, against the wishes of a majority of Americans," said Ashley Horne, federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action. (2/27/09)
"The Senate passed a Broadcaster Freedom Amendment to a D.C. voting rights bill on Thursday by a vote of 87-11. But Democrats countered with an amendment that seeks to promote "diversity' in media ownership." (2/27/09, CNSNews.com)
"The Thomas More Law Center has declared, "Whatever form its reinstatement may take, any limitation on the free speech rights of Michael Savage will result in an immediate legal action," as the center teams with Talk Radio Networks host Savage to fight any attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine." (2/24/09)
Referring to the Fairness Doctrine as the "Censorship Doctrine", the Media Research Center affirmed, "We are glad that President Obama says that he "does not believe the (so-called) Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated.' But he should state his opposition to the use of any FCC regulation with the intent of censoring talk radio. He should also guarantee a veto of any bill that will silence free speech on the airwaves." (2/19/09 MRC President L. Brent Bozell)
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist stated, "Government censorship has many forms, and while President Obama now opposes this form, where does he stand on the more ominous issue of censorship by proxy under the friendly sounding "localism' banner? If liberals want an equal voice on talk radio they simply need to produce a product the public wants to hear."