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Poll: 47% Want Fed-Mandated Media Balance

Nearly one-half of Americans -- 47% -- believe the federal government should mandate equal time for conservative and liberal political commentary on radio and TV stations. However, a majority would exempt the Internet from any enforced balance.

That’s according to a new national telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports, which also found that Democrats are more agreeable to government involvement in broadcast content than Republicans.

And while followers of both parties opposed similar involvement on the Web, Republicans opposed it by a larger margin -- 61% versus 48% of Democrats.

The poll results come amid a growing debate over reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine, a defunct Federal Communications Commission policy that required broadcasters to provide equal time to opposing views on important issues.

Although presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) does not support the return of the doctrine, some Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have raised the possibility. Many Republicans and conservative talk-radio hosts believe an Obama victory will embolden Democratic legislators to push for reinstatement.

On Tuesday, Republican FCC commissioner Robert McDowell remarked that efforts to reinstate the doctrine could result in government regulation of content on the Web under the guise of network neutrality.

The Rasmussen survey further found that 71% believe the current media environment allows pretty much any political view to be expressed. Only 45% said they’ve been casually following news stories about the Fairness Doctrine, while 15% said they’re not following the issue at all.