The Fairness Doctrine, a federal regulation that requires equal time for the expression of different political views on the public airwaves, was abandoned by the Reagan administration in 1987. Set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the regulation, supported by many leading Democrats, could be re-instated by the next president.
“The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to limit pornography on the air. I am for that,” Schumer told Fox News on Tuesday. “I think pornography should be limited. But you can’t say, ‘government hands off in one area’ to a commercial enterprise, but you’re allowed to intervene in another. That’s not consistent.”
There is a difference between radio or television broadcast over the public airwaves and a private medium, such as a Web site or printing press, said Schumer.
“This is not like printing a broadside,” said Schumer. “You would never say that anyone who wanted to hire a printing press or go on a computer has to have any [political] view. Do you think we should allow people to put pornography on the air? Absolutely not, particularly on television and radio.”
Conservative talk radio is commercially successful and has outpaced liberal talk radio over the years. Rush Limbaugh, for instance is the top talker with a weekly minimum audience of 14.2 million listeners, according to the October issue of Talkers Magazine.
The No. 2 talker is conservative Sean Hannity, with 13.2 million listeners a week, followed by conservatives Michael Savage (8.2 million) and Dr. Laura Schlessinger (8.2 million). Glenn Beck is fourth with 6.7 million listeners, followed by Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, both with 5.5 million listeners. All three are conservatives.
The closest competitor on the political left is Ed Schultz, who is tied in 11th place with conservative Jerry Doyle and “paranormalist” George Noory. All three have a weekly minimum audience of 3.0 million, according to Talkers Magazine.
Conservative talk radio hosts, especially Hannity, Limbaugh, and Levin, have been warning their listeners for a year that a Democrat-controlled Congress and a Democratic president in 2009 would seek to re-impose the Fairness Doctrine.
Conservatives largely oppose the regulation because they see it as government trying to stifle or undercut conservative viewpoints. “We have members of Congress brazenly talking about silencing people they disagree with,” said Levin on his Oct. 22 broadcast. “They are brazenly talking about it and not a single mainstream media source gives a damn. They don’t care about free speech. They care about their speech. They care about their propaganda.”
On June 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) attended a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. Asked about the Fairness Doctrine by Human Events newspaper, Pelosi said, “yes,” she supported reinstating it. In June 2007, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said: “I think the Fairness Doctrine ought to be there, and I also think the equal time doctrine ought to come back. … [O]ne of the most profound changes in the balance of the media is when the conservatives got rid of the equal time requirements, and the result is that they have been able to squeeze down and squeeze out opinion of opposing views, and I think its been a very important transition in the imbalance of our public eye.”
In defending the Fairness Doctrine, Schumer told Fox News, “I think we should all try to be fair and balanced, don’t you?”