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Dick Durbin’s Son of Fairness Doctrine

Although Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) won a vote renouncing The Fairness Doctrine 87-11 last week (see the post for more details),  Senator Dick Durbin won a vote on a measure that has the potential to stifle free speech and destroy conservative talk radio on a 57-41 vote.  A Durbin Amendment to implement a different regulatory roadmap for the FCC to stifle talk radio was passed during Senate consideration of a bill to provide a vote in the House of Representatives to the District of Columbia.  The vote on the Durbin measure is an interesting case study on how the left is working attack conservative talk radio through what I call the Son of the Fairness Doctrine. 

Erick Erickson previewed the debate over the Durbin Amendment when he posted on Red State two weeks ago that “Congress will restrict how many stations a company can own in a market.  They’ll also require advisory boards for each station and make it easier to address consumer complaints against stations.”  Durbin’s Amendment purpose was “to encourage and promote diversity in communication media ownership, and to ensure that the public airwaves are used in the public interest.”  Can you see the similarities?

The Durbin Amendment is a clear attack on free speech and 56 Senators vote with Senator Durbin to empower the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate conservative talk radio out of existence.  The Amendment specifically forces the FCC “take actions to encourage diversity in communication media ownership.”  Diversity is a code word for efforts to remove some conservatives from the radio airwaves.

Remember that the Center for American Progress (CAP) roadmap to exterminate conservative talk radio, The Structural Imbalance of Talk Radio?  This paper called for a restoration of local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations.  CAP has ordered left wing Senators to mandate that national radio ownership by any one entity should not exceed 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM broadcast stations and for local ownership and no one entity should control more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market.  The Durbin Amendment was not as specific as the CAP paper, but it is a first step to an FCC regulatory attack on the CBS, Clear Channel, Citadel, Cumulus and Salem radio networks.

The Durbin Amendment had another mandate to the FCC to “ensure that broadcast licenses are used in the public interest.”  The CAP paper argues that local control can help to eradicate conservatives from talk radio by forcing ”radio broadcast licensees to regularly show that they are operating on behalf of the public interest and provide public documentation and viewing of how they are meeting these obligations.”  Who determines the definition of the “public interest?”  Well, it will be left wing radio broadcasters and government bureaucrats from the FCC who define the “public interest.”

The only part of the CAP recommendations that did not make it into the Durbin Amendment is the enforcement mechanism for proving that a station is being used “in the public interest” or they be forced to pay a tax with the proceeds going to support public broadcasting.

Soren Dayton has also written how the Fairness Doctrine fight is not over — it is merely beginning:

Adam Theirer, a scholar at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, notes that the Fairness Doctrine was part of a regulatory paradigm being pushed by the left and, in particular, the group Free Press. This fight is not over. Adam’s piece is worth reading: arguing that the left “they want to get on with the more far-reaching agenda of micro-managing media markets using a variety of less visible regulations.”

The Durbin Amendment is the first shot across the bow of Limbaugh, Hannity and the army of conservative talk radio stations throughout the nation.  Get ready for the long arm of Washington to come to a radio station near you to force feed unpopular left wing talk radio in the name of providing for the “public interest.”  All conservatives should read the Center for American Progress paper to understand the strategy of these enemies of free speech and the First Amendment.

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