Click to view image: 'd94e3d1b390e-us_flag.jpg'The Senate voted Thursday in favor of an amendment to the District of Columbia voting-rights bill that would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstating the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which critics say would decimate conservative talk radio.
The Senate passed the measure 87-11.
Republicans have introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act in the House as well, but Democrats are not expected to allow a vote on the bill.
Legislation would have to pass both chambers of Congress and receive President Obama’s signature.
The FCC first implemented the doctrine in the late 1940s to balance the political content of broadcasters, requiring them to give equal time to liberal and conservative viewpoints.
The agency scrapped the regulation in the mid-'80s after determining that it was no longer necessary because the public had a wide array of political news sources from which to choose.
Since then Congress has tried twice to re-implement the Fairness Doctrine but failed because of vetoes by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
The amendment, sponsored by Senate Republican Steering Committee Chairman Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairman John Thune (S.D.), would block the FCC from reviving equal-time requirements by enacting the Broadcaster Freedom Act.
Specifically, it would prohibit the agency from forcing broadcasters to present opposing viewpoints on “controversial issues of public importance.”
Conservatives fear that forcing stations to make equal time for liberal talk radio would slash profits and pressure radio executives to scale back on conservative programming to avoid escalating costs and interference from government regulators.
Opponents of the Fairness Doctrine argue that liberal talk radio has not proven popular or profitable. For example, "Air America," liberals’ answer to “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” filed for bankruptcy in October 2006.
The FCC discarded the policy in 1985 after deciding that it restricted journalistic freedom and “actually inhibit[ed] the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and in degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists,” according to a Congressional Research Service report.
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