House spending amendment nixes Fairness Doctrine

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment June 28 by a 309-115 vote to prevent the FCC from using funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, was attached to the Financial Services and General Government Bill.

Some Democrats in the Senate had expressed their desire to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, following the failed effort to move a comprehensive immigration program to a vote. Polls showed that more than 80 percent of the U.S. public opposed the measure, and many in the Senate identified talk radio as rallying the public to oppose the bill.

The Fairness Doctrine was repealed in the mid-1980s. Originally, it was put in place when the only national broadcast influence was controlled by the three major networks in an attempt to ensure that opposing views on controversial subjects were aired. It had the effect, however, of discouraging broadcasters from airing controversial issues to sidestep running afoul of the regulation.

Prior to the vote, NAB executive VP of government relations Doug Wiley sent a letter to lawmakers: “The so-called Fairness Doctrine would stifle the growth of diverse views and, in effect, make free speech less free. Newsgatherers, media outlets and reporters will be less willing to present ideas that might be controversial.”

The amendment puts the issue on hold for now.