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Pence Wants To Kill Fairness Doctrine

Pence Wants to Kill Fairness Doctrine

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told C-SPAN that he is still serious about forcing a vote on his bill preventing the FCC from reimposing the so-called fairness doctrine.

Pence, a former syndicated radio host who opposes reinstating the doctrine, added that talk about reviving it was prompted, in part, by a publication from a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

Interviewed for the cable net's Communicators series, Pence said that former Clinton aide 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 ownership regulations.

On the heels of that report, he said, and in the wake of the collapse of the immigration bill (which most conservative radio talk show hosts vehemently opposed), prominent Democrats started talking about reviving the fairness doctrine. Pence decided that it was time 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. Its demise helped spur the rise of talk radio stars like 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 it was not about Martin, but about the next chairman, who could bring the doctrine back without consulting Congress.

Pence successfully amended an appropriations bill to put a one-year moratorium on using FCC funds to reimpose the rule and President Bush said he would veto any congressional attempt to bring the doctrine back. As a candidate back in 1988, the president's father also threatened a similar veto after President Reagan had vetoed one fairness doctrine reimposition bill and threatened a second.

Pence will sponsored the stand-alone Broadcaster Freedom Act, which would prevent the reimposition of the doctrine, and vows to use “every tool in the box” to bring the bill to the floor. 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, most say it is a non-issue drummed up by—what else?—talk radio.