Palo Alto Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s call to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, which would force conservative talk radio stations to air opposing views, has drawn fire from House Republican Leader John Boehner.
“The so-called Fairness Doctrine would restrict free speech on the public airwaves, stifling dissent at a time when an open national dialogue about our country’s future is essential,” Boehner said in a press release Tuesday. “The American people do not believe the federal government should be in the business of dictating or restricting the content of political speech.”
In an interview Monday with the Palo Alto Daily Post, Eshoo told the Post she not only supports the Fairness Doctrine, but would expand it beyond radio and TV to cable and satellite programmers.
“It should and will affect everyone,” said Eshoo, a Democrat.
The doctrine, which was in effect from the 1940s until it was abolished by Reagan’s Federal Communications Commission in 1987, required broadcasters to provide equal time to opposing points of view. It did not apply to news programs but anytime a broadcaster aired political opinions, the station was required to give those who opposed the opinions equal time, usually during the same time slot. Talk radio hosts fear that stations will not want to give away free air time and decide to cancel political programs.
“I’ll work on bringing it back. I still believe in it,” Eshoo said Monday.
But Boehner said that he was troubled by Eshoo’s comments, “and my hope is that President-elect Obama will speak out against efforts by members of his party to use their majority power to limit free speech and dissent.”
Obama has not recently commented on the Fairness Doctrine, but on June 25, Obama’s press secretary sent an e-mail to the industry journal Broadcasting & Cable, saying: “Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters.”
Eshoo called the present system “unfair,” although she said broadcasters were still opposed to the doctrine, saying it limited what they can do on the air and also said it violates their First Amendment rights.
“There should be equal time for the spoken word,” she added.