Friday, February 27, 2009

Durbin Amendment: A Fairness Doctrine by Any Other Name is Still a Fairness Doctrine

In an essay published on the Web site, Seton Motley writes that yesterday by a whopping 87-11 vote, the Senate added as a rider to the passed DC voting rights bill the Broadcaster Freedom Act (BFA). The BFA, if also passed by the House and signed by the President, would kill once and for all the Censorship Doctrine -- also mis-known as the "Fairness" Doctrine.
Because another rider was added via a party-line 57-41 vote. Written by Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, S.160's Purpose is "To encourage and promote diversity in communication media ownership, and to ensure that the public airwaves are used in the public interest."

Hello, new "Fairness" Doctrine - the regulatory enforcement of "diversity" of radio station ownership, and localism as defined by the "public interest." Liberal censors are now travelling alternative routes to reach their original destination - silencing political speech on the airwaves.

One tremendous problem with this amendment, with the Censorship Doctrine itself and in fact with virtually every aspect of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s broadcast licensing requirements is that they are all completely nebulous. President Barack Obama's FCC can interpret these regulations in any direction it wishes, which more than likely bodes poorly for free speech on the radio.

And the worst part of the Durbin Amendment is the possibility that Obama's FCC may now be empowered to prematurely pull the broadcast licenses of radio stations they deem as failing to meet these new "Fairness" Doctrine-esque guidelines. Several lawyers who do this for a living see this rider's wording as amorphous enough to allow for this interpretation.
This would be absolutely devastating to talk radio. Stations currently carrying Conservative and Christian talk would be perpetually under the FCC gun -- never knowing when the regulatory hammer would fall and crush their businesses. They would feel tremendous pressure to change formats so as to be able to stay on the air.

And no one would be able to justify the tremendous expense of getting into talk radio if their lifeline -- their broadcast license -- could be pulled capriciously at any time.
In the real world, the public interest is best served by what the public is interested in. Conservative and Christian talk radio survives and thrives because people listen, and Liberal talk fails because they don't.

But none of this matters in this brave new "diverse" world. Liberals never liked the free market with it's equality of opportunity. They have always preferred an equality of outcome - where shows that have listeners are forced to share the airwaves with those that don't.
The Durbin Amendment solves the Left's "Fairness" Doctrine dilemma. It gets them what they want -- radio free of Conservative and Christian talk -- without the political baggage of carrying the "Fairness" Doctrine name.

For them, a rose by any other name still smells as sweet if it serves to silence the opposition.

Read it.

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