The right's bogus Fairness Doctrine fears

Conservatives have been warning for almost two years that Democrats intend to censor talk radio, but the conspiracy they see is only imaginary.

Published November 20, 2008 6:55PM (EST)

Shortly after Democrats retook Congress in 2006, conservatives began sounding the warning bell -- the left was salivating over the prospect of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, and its restoration was surely imminent. And if the democrats had their way, conservative talk radio as we know it would soon be a thing of the past.

But, as I wrote in an article way back in April of 2007, there's a distinct lack of evidence to support the right's concerns. At the time, when I contacted spokesmen for two Democratic members of Congress who'd have to play a key role in any restoration of the Fairness Doctrine, weren't even really sure what I was talking about. "I'm not aware that there's any kind of debate about the Fairness Doctrine," Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said. "To be honest, I barely even know what it is ... [Sen. Reid] is not contemplating anything like that. It truly is not on his radar screen." (For the record, the Fairness Doctrine is an old FCC rule that said broadcasters had to provide balance in any opinion broadcasting; it was scrapped during the Reagan administration.)

With the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, the chorus of fear has only grown louder. But The New Republic's Marin Cogan showed, in an article published Wednesday, that there's still no reason to believe Democrats are really planning to "Hush Rush."

Cogan writes:

I looked at Obama's position--and it turns out that he doesn't want the policy reinstated. Then I called the array of Democratic congressmen who had been tagged by conservatives as doctrine proponents. But they all denied any intention to push for its reinstatement... Responses from the offices of most of the Democrats who have been pegged as fairness-doctrine proponents--[Chuck] Schumer, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, and others--have ranged from a firm denial that the issue is a priority at all to disbelief at finding themselves at the center of a manufactured controversy.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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