The stations WMAL and WTNT broadcast conservative or right-leaning shows. WMAL's lineup includes Fred Grandy and Andy Parks, Chris Plante, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. WTNT's lineup features Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Dennis Miller, Mancow, Michael Savage and Lars Larsen.
Bingaman has indicated he supports reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, a federal regulation abandoned by the Reagan administration in 1987 that required programs using the public airwaves to “afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance.”
Like Bingaman, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have also expressed support for re-imposing the Fairness Doctrine.
The defunct regulation has recently been nicknamed the "Censorship Doctrine" by conservatives worried that an all-Democratic government might try to infringe on the First Amendment rights of talk radio.
In late October, Bingaman was interviewed on 770 AM KKOB in Albuquerque, N.M. In that interview, he said he would like to see the Fairness Doctrine revived by the Democrats in Congress and its “fairness” rules applied to KKOB.
“I would want this station and all stations to have to present a balanced perspective and different points of view instead of always hammering away at one side of the political (spectrum),” Bingaman said.
But when asked by CNSNews.com specifically about the conservative programming at WTNT and WMAL, Bingaman said, “I think it’s fine. …They can do whatever they want.”
He also said he was unsure how reviving the Fairness Doctrine today would affect talk radio. “I don’t know what the effect of it would be at this point,” Bingaman told CNSNews.com.
The exchange between Bingaman and CNSNews.com went as follows:
CNSNews.com: “Senator, a question on the Fairness Doctrine. In October, you told a station in New Mexico that you think the Fairness Doctrine ought to be revived. As far as WTNT here in Washington and WMAL, they have a pretty right-wing line up. Do you think the federal government should force them to balance out their programming?”
Bingaman: “Oh no, I think it’s fine. They can do whatever they want.”
CNSNews.com: “But you do support reviving the Fairness Doctrine, correct?”
Bingaman: “Well, I just said that I thought it served us well when we had it. That’s all I said.”
CNSNews.com: “But do you think the Fairness Doctrine would end up forcing them to balance out their programming?”
Bingaman: “I don't know what the effect of it would be at this point.”
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who has led conservatives in fighting against restoration of the Fairness Doctrine, wrote a bill that would permanently ban the regulation, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who controls the House floor schedule along with Pelosi, told CNSNews.com in July that Pence’s legislation would not be considered in 2008.
In the meantime, Pence has organized a discharge petition that would force his bill to the House floor.
President-elect Barack Obama has not taken a public position on the Fairness Doctrine, but a spokesman reportedly told Broadcasting and Cable magazine that he does not support it.
“Senator Obama does not support re-imposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters,” said press secretary Michael Ortiz in an e-mail to the magazine.
“He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible,” said Ortiz.