Boehner to Religious Broadcasters: No New Fairness Doctrine

NASHVILLE, TENN.: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told religious broadcasters over the weekend he and his colleagues would resurrect an effort to quash the Fairness Doctrine once and for all. Addressing the annual National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville--Boehner’s first speech outside of Washington as Speaker--the congressman said legislation would be introduced to prevent the re-enactment of law that requires broadcasters to provide equal time for opposing viewpoints.

“Our new majority is committed to seeing that the government does not reinstate the Fairness Doctrine,” Boehner said in a keynote Sunday. “Congressman Walden has teamed up with another former broadcaster, Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, to introduce legislation to help keep the airwaves free. I expect the House to act on this measure as well.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Pence and Greg Walden of Oregon tried to ban the Fairness Doctrine. Both introduced an amendment to a finance bill in 2009 to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from bringing it back. The doctrine has not been in effect since 1987, when the FCC dissolved it. The House and Senate had voted that year to codify it, but President Reagan vetoed the legislation. Pence and Walden’s 2009 amendment was rejected by the House Rules Committee.

The specter of the Fairness Doctrine arose in early 2009 when a handful of Democrats, smarting over their treatment by conservative media pundits, mentioned it publicly. None ever introduced legislation to re-enact it, and both President Obama and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said they would not support a return of the Fairness Doctrine.

Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said as much in his NRB address two years ago:
“The Obama Administration and [FCC] Chairman [Julius] Genachowski have on several occasions stated that they are not interested in reviving the Doctrine.” McDowell also said he would be vigilant about program reporting requirements that reflected the Fairness Doctrine.

Boehner, in this year’s speech, likened the Fairness Doctrine to Net Neutrality, which he also vowed to fight. A resolution to reverse the FCC’s adoption of Net Neutrality rules is expected to be voted on next month, Boehner said.

-- Deborah D. McAdams