Do we really want the government to be talk radio's nanny?
Having won control of the White House and Congress, Democrats are turning their attention to their legislative agenda. High on the list of priorities? The Fairness Doctrine. Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York hope to use their party's victory to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine on radio, but the return of the doctrine would be bad news for them – and could end up being good news for conservatives.
Not familiar with the Fairness Doctrine? It's not your fault – it hasn't been in existence for more than 20 years. Meant to ensure every side received fair hearing on controversial issues, the doctrine was tossed out by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during the Reagan years.
Many Democrats are eager to bring the doctrine back, and it is likely to be introduced early on in the next Congress. Senator Schumer underscored this point when, on Election Day, he made his case for the doctrine on Fox News, arguing that government has a right to regulate radio for the public good, as it does with pornography.
In conservative media, the doctrine has been getting play throughout the campaign. As Barack Obama's victory looked increasingly likely, David Frum used the Fairness Doctrine to argue for divided government, warning that a Democratic Congress would try to silence the opposition through the Fairness Doctrine. Others contended that Democrats wanted the doctrine to force more stations to air less-popular liberal radio programming.