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Pence Continues To Push Doctrine-Blocking Bill

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a former syndicated radio host himself, tells C-SPAN that he is still serious about getting an "up or down" vote on his bill preventing the FCC from reimposing the so-called fairness doctrine.

Pence also said that talk on the Hill about reviving the doctrine was prompted, in part, by a publication from a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

Pence, being interviewed for the cable net's Communicators series, said that John Podesta's think tank, Center for American Progress, had issued a report on the "Structural Imbalance of American Talk Radio"  that recommended new radio ownerhip regulations.

On the heels of that, he said, and in the wake of the collapse of the immigration bill opposed by many talk radio hosts, prominent Democrats started talking about the doctrine and he decided to "run to the sound of the guns." 

The doctrine, which the FCC scrapped as unconstitutional in 1987, required broadcasters to air both sides of issues of public importance. It's demise helped spur the rise of conservative talk radio stars including Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Asked why he was still concerned about FCC action after FCC Chairman Kevin Martin assured him he had no intention of bringing back the doctrine, Pence said he appreciated the chairman's assurances but that it was not about Martin, but about the next chairman, who could bring the doctrine back without consulting Congress.

Pence pointed out that, after he successfully amended an appropriations bill to put a one-year moratorium on using FCC funds to reimpose the doctrine, President George W. Bush said he would veto any congressional attempt to bring the doctrine back. But Pence said it was not about this president either, but the next one.

As a candidate back in 1988, Bush's father threatened a similar veto after President Reagan had had to veto one fairness doctrine reimposition bill and threatened a second to keep the doctrine off the books.

Pence has sponsored the stand-alone Broadcaster Freedom Act, which would prevent the reimposition of the doctrine. He says every Republican member of Congress and one Democrat--he did not identify the Dem--have co-sponsored the bill.

While some Democrats, including Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) have talked about reviving the doctrine, many have called it a non-issue drummed up by talk radio.

Maybe, but Pence said that when Congress returns, he will try to bring the bill to the floor using "every tool in the box." Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) twice tried to introduce the act as an amendment to bills in the Senate, but was unsuccessful.