House Prohibits 2008 Spending on Fairness Doctrine.
Pence Amendment Passes 309-115.
Find out here how your Representative voted.
Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly, a news analyst for NBC, MSNBC and CNBC, warns that “Unless broadcasters take steps to voluntarily balance their programming, they can expect a return of fairness rules if Democrats keep control of Congress and win the White House next year.”
The Rep. Mike Pence amendment, adopted by a vote of 309-115, was to the Financial Services Appropriations bill. It prohibits funds from being used by the Federal Communications Commission to impose the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters. But it only applies to fiscal year 2008 dollars and there is no plan by the current Republican-dominated FCC to re-impose the doctrine.
Pence himself points out that “Although my amendment to the Financial Services Appropriations bill passed, prohibiting any funding to the FCC for the enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine, should it be resurrected, we must keep in mind that it is only a one-year moratorium on funding. While I am pleased that 309 Members of Congress supported this short-term fix, it is my hope that they will continue to stand for freedom of speech by joining me in a long-term solution to the problem by passing the Broadcaster Freedom Act.” (emphasis added).
On June 29, Pence introduced his long-term solution, the Broadcaster Freedom Act. This bill would prevent a future Democratic Administration from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. It has only 111 co-sponsors.
On the House floor, after Pence introduced and explained his amendment, Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano declared that “…I would just like to inform the gentleman that we will accept his amendment.” Serrano voted for it.
In other words, Democrats were prepared to let it pass without debate or opposition.
But a debate ensued anyway.
The debate may have served a purpose if it raised awareness by the public about what Democrats have planned—and that more action to protect the First Amendment is urgently needed.
Democratic Rep. David Obey pointed out that “…the totally Republican-dominated commission is not going to resurrect that doctrine.” Even Obey voted for the Pence amendment.
Rep. Diane Watson said that the Pence amendment was designed to “prevent spending on something that doesn’t exist.” Watson voted against it.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich said the debate over the Pence amendment was “a red herring” because the Bush Administration “would never reinstate” the Fairness Doctrine anyway. He said, “It’s a debate about something that’s not going to happen under this administration, but it may happen under a future administration.” (emphasis added). Kucinich voted against the Pence amendment.
Rep. John D. Dingell called the Pence amendment “entirely unnecessary,” noting that “I understand from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman’s office that the FCC has no plans to even debate the issue, much less take action. In other words, there will be no action at the FCC on the Fairness Doctrine. It is therefore unclear why the gentleman—who must know this fact—is even offering the amendment.” Dingell voted against it.
The critical matter, which Pence acknowledges, is a long-term solution. Unfortunately, the chances of a Democratic-controlled House and Senate passing Pence’s Broadcasters Freedom Act are considered to be slim or none because it would tie the hands of a possible Democratic president who could appoint a Democratic FCC majority. And that majority could reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.
Can a liberal-controlled Congress be forced to safeguard First Amendment rights by passing the Broadcaster Freedom Act? That is the tremendous challenge ahead. Conservatives should not be misled by erroneous media coverage into thinking that passage of the Pence amendment by an overwhelming margin solved the problem. It did not. It is symbolic and largely irrelevant.
Accuracy in Media has led opposition to the return of the Fairness Doctrine, covering a “media reform” conference where Democratic politicians and members of the FCC urged more media regulation. Our special report (PDF) examines the history of the Fairness Doctrine and how Democratic administrations use it to silence conservative media.
AIM Editor Cliff Kincaid points out that when a Democratic president appoints the chairman of the FCC, the Democrats will have a 3-2 majority. He explains, “Hillary Clinton’s backers in the Media Matters group want the return of the Fairness Doctrine so they can enlist FCC bureaucrats in the effort to control and influence the content of conservative talk radio.”
What is the current Republican-controlled FCC doing, if anything, to counter this threat?
Kincaid asks, “Where are the FCC studies making the case for freedom in broadcasting? By making the case that the Fairness Doctrine is no longer needed, and that it would interfere with free speech rights, the current FCC could make it difficult for a Democratic-dominated FCC to legally justify the return of the Fairness Doctrine. Such studies could prompt the courts to throw out any new Fairness Doctrine emanating from the agency.
“But FCC chairman Kevin Martin, a Bush appointee, doesn’t seem too concerned. In a recent interview with John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable magazine, Martin was asked about ‘talk of trying to re-institute the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine’ and whether he would support that. His reply was, ‘No. The commission eliminated the doctrine in 1987. Doing so has made for a lot of opportunities in things like talk radio.’
“That was it. Martin decided not to challenge any of the Democratic proposals to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine or to make a strong statement in favor of the First Amendment.”
House debate. June 28.
(From the Congressional Record, roll call vote at end of debate.)
Mr. PENCE. Mr. Chairman, I come to the floor today, along with my partners in this amendment, Congressman JEB HENSARLING of Texas, Congressman JEFF FLAKE of Arizona, very much in a spirit of bipartisanship. We come to the floor in this moment, on this amendment, to be about that which I think we are all about.
The freedom of speech and the freedom of the press is not a partisan issue in this Congress. We all live under and cherish that first amendment that says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.
I, myself, Mr. Chairman, have worked in a bipartisan way in this Congress to fashion legislation that ensures a free and independent press. The amendment before this body today is simply an extension of that mission.
Our legislation would simply say that none of the funds made available in this act may be used by the Federal Communications Commission to implement the Fairness Doctrine, as repealed in 1985.
Now, the Fairness Doctrine actually came to pass in 1949, part of a regulation of a much older law. It required broadcasters to present controversial issues in a fair and balanced manner. That sounds reasonable enough. But because of the lack of clarity in the regulation, in the commission’s rulings, broadcasters, during almost four decades, often opted not to offer any controversial programming whatsoever.
The FCC concluded that in fact, by 1985, this regulation was having a chilling effect on the public debate and repealed it effective 1987. Since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio particularly has emerged as a dynamic forum for public debate and, I offer, an asset to the Nation.
Our amendment, simply put, is an effort to maintain the status quo, to prevent this administration and this Federal Communications Commission, in this fiscal year about which we are debating, to use no funds to return the Fairness Doctrine.
Now, I want to acknowledge the fact that there are some who are skeptical about the need for this amendment. I have heard distinguished and respected Members of this body come to this floor and say that this is, quote, “an issue which does not exist,” and have seen writing, and I expect we will hear rhetoric to that effect, and I will respect the words of each person that utters that view, but I will differ.
Just for example, in the last 2 days, the Senate majority whip, the distinguished Senator from Illinois, RICHARD DURBIN, said, “It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine.” That was yesterday. In the last several days, the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, Senator DIANNE FEINSTEIN, said she was looking at reviving the Fairness Doctrine. The Democrat nominee for the President of the United States in 2004, the distinguished Senator JOHN KERRY, said, “I think the Fairness Doctrine ought to be there,” and he went on to say, “I also think the equal time doctrine ought to come back.” Most recently, the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, published an entire report on what it called the “structural imbalance of political talk radio.”
So you will forgive me if many of us sense there is afoot in the Nation’s Capital a bit of a cool breeze on the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression on the airwaves. So we seize this opportunity in the appropriations process, with my partners, JEFF FLAKE and JEB HENSARLING, and hopefully a bipartisan majority in this Congress, to say yes to freedom and to reject, in this fiscal year, the power that we have in the spending bill, any funds to be spent to bring back this unfairness doctrine to American broadcasting law.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SERRANO. Mr. Chairman, I would just like to inform the gentleman that we will accept his amendment.
The CHAIRMAN. Who claims time in opposition?
Mr. OBEY. For purposes of debate, I would like to claim the time in opposition.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Wisconsin is recognized for 20 minutes.
Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 3 minutes.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, this issue is much ado about nothing. We have been subjected to filibuster by amendment all week, and now we are going to be subjected to 40 minutes of so-called debate on a nonexistent issue. Now, why is this issue here?
There isn’t anybody in the Congress that I know of who is trying to legislatively resurrect the Fairness Doctrine, and, certainly, the totally Republican-dominated commission is not going to resurrect that doctrine.
What’s at stake here is that a certain Senator, who evidently was afflicted by a bad case of being hit by sun spots so he no longer believes that there is anything like global warming, claims that he was in an elevator and overheard a couple of Senators talk about resurrecting the fairness clause. The two Senators involved say that’s nonsense.
But what you have got going on here is an effort on the part of right-wing radio to gin up the folks by inventing a fight that doesn’t exist. As far as I’m concerned, it’s immaterial to me how people vote on this. If Members want the debate to go until 8:00 tonight instead of 7:00, fine, spend 40 minutes debating an issue that doesn’t exist.
But what I do find interesting is that folks who scream every day of the week about that so-called “liberal press,” all of a sudden they are now saying, “Oh, my God, can you imagine, somebody might force a fairness doctrine on us.” Well, one would think that if they really do believe the press is liberal, that they would then want the protection that would come from the Fairness Doctrine.
I think the very fact that they don’t want to see the Fairness Doctrine resurrected is, in fact, an open admission that they recognize the radio waves are largely and almost totally dominated by the right and the far right and the off-the-wall right.
I don’t see any purpose in taking any more time.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. CHAIRMAN, first let me acknowledge my gratitude that the chairman of this subcommittee will accept this amendment and has endorsed it on the floor.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield 1 minute to my partner in this amendment, the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake).
Mr. FLAKE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
The gentleman from Wisconsin mentioned that he heard one Senator with sun spots overheard two other Senators talking.
Mr. OBEY. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. FLAKE. Yes, I would.
Mr. OBEY. I didn’t say he was from Arizona.
Mr. FLAKE. No, he wasn’t from Arizona. The gentleman can be excused. He has been very busy, and I am glad he has been reading earmark request letters. There have been a lot of them, so he has been tied up.
But what he missed, as the good gentleman from Indiana mentioned, Senate Majority Whip DICK DURBIN from Illinois, not afflicted with sun spots, by the way, just yesterday said, “It is time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine.” So I don’t think that we are seeing things here. There is a move afoot.
Make no mistake, this is targeted at talk radios, where conservatives seem to have done a little better in the marketplace than the other side of the argument.
So forgive us for being skeptical that nothing is afoot. But when the majority leader in the Senate says it’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine, I think we’re right to be concerned.
Mr. OBEY. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio.
Mr. KUCINICH. I agree with my colleague from Wisconsin that this debate is a red herring, that it is an effort to perpetuate the abuse of the public trust by holding up the usual straw man to divert attention from the fact that our airwaves are being abused and our democracy is being eroded. It’s an effort to fire up a base.
An informed electorate is essential to a strong democracy. One of the things that I would like to say to my colleagues, there is a conflation here where they are talking about freedom of the press. In the Constitution, freedom of the press relates to freedom that newspapers have.
The electronic media is governed by the FCC, and the 1934 act says that electronic media has to serve in the public interest, convenience and necessity. Just for the sake of keeping the record straight, you can talk about the freedom of the press and you may mean newspapers, radio and TV.
But it is a fact that the electronic media is governed by the FCC. Under the laws of the FCC, 1934, we are supposed to be operating a public interest, convenience and necessity.
Now, the proponents of this amendment and of right-wing corporate radio and TV are saying that they are threatened by this fairness doctrine because they think, incorrectly, it will require corporate radio and TV to be actually fair and balanced. I think they are probably threatened by such a prospect because they know that this particular type of radio and TV communication is not.
Now, any proposal to address the real issue here, restoring genuinely productive public debate, would need to restore accountability to those who use the publicly owned airwaves. The first step would be to reverse the extreme concentration of media ownership. Let’s have this debate out in the open, not when some are trying to use a red herring to try to prevent reinstatement of a rule that this administration would never reinstate, never, not a way.
As Mr. Obey said, what’s this debate about? It’s a debate about something that’s not going to happen under this administration, but it may happen under a future administration.
Mr. PENCE. I think the gentleman from Ohio knows how much I respect his liberal passion and often feel it mirrors my conservative passion, but let me emphasize and agree with his final point.
It is precisely about the next administration that many here in this Chamber and many here in America are concerned with leaving in the Federal Communications Commission the resources or the authority to reregulate the public airwaves.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield 1 minute to my partner in this amendment, the distinguished chairman of the Republican Study Committee, JEB HENSARLING.
Mr. HENSARLING. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank him for his leadership.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, there is no greater guarantor of our democracy and our freedoms than the first amendment. There is no greater threat to our first amendment, freedom of speech, than the resurrection of the so-called Fairness Doctrine. The use of the term “fairness doctrine” would make George Orwell blush. The use of the program would make Hugo Chavez jealous.
Fairness, fairness particularly, as defined and policed by government, is the absolute antithesis of freedom.
It is patently unfair, and there was a time in our Nation’s history when liberals proudly spoke out and jealously guarded our first amendment rights, and now, as we have heard from others, they seek to shut it down.
If, in doubt, colleagues err on the side of freedom.
Mr. OBEY. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentlewoman from California (Ms. Watson).
Ms. WATSON. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I find this very odd, this situation we are in.
We heard a number of our Republican colleagues come to the floor today to object to particular spending items in the bill, but this might be a first. Mr. Pence has an amendment here to prevent spending on something that doesn’t exist.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, I think it’s worth us having a real debate on the need for a fairness doctrine. But before we get into the merits of the Fairness Doctrine, we should point out that the Fairness Doctrine has not existed since 1987, so that the argument that the Fairness Doctrine has somehow caused bias in America media is a complete red herring.
But I think we need to take a hard look at what happens to our public dialogue in this country when only six companies have dominion over public debate.
Mr. Pence says he doesn’t want the Federal Government deciding what is fair and what is not fair, but at least the Federal Government is accountable to voters. And so I think we need to get back to what is really fair in an open society. And I urge my colleagues to vote against the Pence amendment.
And I would urge Mr. Pence to join us in working to open up a free, true market in American media. And I stand ready to work with you, Mr. Pence, or any other Member of this House who wants to shift our public debate away from the centrally planned media environment we have today to a truly, functional, free market where new entrepreneurs have a chance to compete with established media companies and where new ideas have a chance to compete with the old and failed policies of the past.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished Republican whip of the House of Representatives.
Mr. BLUNT. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I’m on the side that this debate does matter. And, in fact, I think I just heard debate begin, as our good friend just suggested that this doctrine does need to be looked at and does need to be changed.
I certainly think that this debate is more meaningful than whether the Vice President is part of the executive branch of government or not, and I’m grateful to Mr. Pence and Mr. Hensarling and Mr. Flake for bringing this issue to the floor today.
I’m also grateful, and appreciate the majority’s willingness to accept this. And while this may not be an item that was on the House agenda last week, I think it’s clearly an item on the agenda of debate in the country.
The Fairness Doctrine, or the so-called fairness doctrine is a clear and bald-faced attack on free speech. It’s been declared such by the Supreme Court and the FCC, and just about every reasonable American who ever heard about it.
Proponents of the doctrine don’t like what they hear on the radio, but instead of empowering the process by engaging the points with regular Americans, they prefer to empower a government agency to silence those voices.
This is a diverse country with rich and robust views on politics, on culture, on society, on the role of government. The right to vocalize disagreements on all those topics in whatever medium or whatever way is available, is fundamentally what differentiates us from the countries, the totalitarian views of regimes that our country has stood against for now 230 years.
But the fairness doctrine would limit those rights and submit private broadcasters to arbitrary rules of so-called fairness, rules, I suppose, that would change from year to year, depending on who controlled the Congress or who controlled the White House.
The content of radio and television shows should be directed by station managers, not by government bureaucrats. The success or failure of that programming should be determined by the marketplace of options and the marketplace of ideas, not by some arbitrary rule of a government agency.
Again, I want to thank Mr. Pence, Mr. Flake and Mr. Hensarling for offering this important amendment. I urge its support, both in the House today and in the debates that I believe are starting now.
It may have been in an elevator yesterday and a hearing room tomorrow and the FCC in the future, if we don’t engage in this important debate again.
I’m grateful to the majority for accepting this amendment, but I urge all Members of the House to speak out loudly against this so-called doctrine as this debate continues.
Mr. SERRANO. I move to strike the last word.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. SERRANO. First of all, if this is not a political stunt for the public and for those talk shows to carry in support, then why are we debating for 40 minutes an amendment that I accepted at the beginning and almost interrupted the gentleman in accepting it?
Another thing that’s very interesting, if you don’t believe that you have great support in the electronic media right now, if you don’t believe that those stations have gone out of their way to give the conservative point of view and leave out those of us who may be considered liberals and who consider themselves liberals, then why are you so afraid of something called the fairness doctrine? If there’s nothing to get fixed because there’s nothing broken, what’s the concern?
Well, obviously, you must know that there’s something that you may stand to lose, otherwise you wouldn’t make a big fuss about it.
Now, let me tell you something. Probably any so-called liberal you would get on radio, if one was hired by any of those stations, would probably be a moderate. You have nothing to worry about. Mr. Kucinich and I are not leaving Congress. We will not have a radio or TV show any time soon, and therefore, it won’t be what you think it is. It’ll be pretty moderate.
But, again, what is the problem with going against an issue where you claim that there’s a problem and, in fact, we know no issue exists. Now, that seems to be a prevailing behavior here today. You have seen amendments and you will see more coming later that speak to something that’s not an issue. It’s not a problem. And this one, I’m actually accepting it. I’m saying let Rush and the other guys, you know, continue to be fair and balanced in their approach. That’s fine with me. And here you want more and more and more of the same.
But, again, not to be flippant in any way, I assure you that neither in Spanish or in English have I been offered a radio show that would make your skin crawl moving it to the left where the debate should be at times. Have no fear, I’m staying in Congress for as long as I can be in Congress, and you have nothing to fear but your fears itself.
I yield back.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. Chairman, might I inquire how much time I have remaining?
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman has 10 minutes remaining.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. CHAIRMAN, and to the distinguished chairman of the subcommittee, I appreciate both the tone and the good natured aspects of his remarks. But I say very seriously when he asked the question rhetorically, he says you act as though there’s something you would stand to lose.
Our view is, despite the gentleman’s assurances that I completely accept as sincere, what we stand to lose is freedom. We have some of the most prominent and powerful Members of this Congress stepping forward and calling for the regulation of free speech on the air waves of America using this archaic doctrine dubbed as the Fairness Doctrine.
And today, with the support of the majority, we will send a deafening message that not on our watch will that occur.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield 2 minutes to a former broadcaster, distinguished member of the Commerce Committee, Mr. Walden of Oregon.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I am still a broadcaster, actually. My family has been in radio broadcasting for more than 20 years.
The CHAIRMAN. Will the gentleman suspend? The microphone is not on.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. CHAIRMAN, it seems rather cruel that a radio broadcaster would not have his microphone turned on. And so I stand here today in support of this amendment because it really is about the first amendment. And it is about the freedom of speech on the air waves. And if you don’t think so, go back to what the U.S. Supreme Court said in Red Lion Broadcasting vs. FCC 38 years ago when they cautioned that while the doctrine may be constitutional, if it’s ever used to restrain speech its constitutionality should be reconsidered.
1974, in Miami Herald Publishing Company vs. Torino, the Court concluded that the doctrine inescapably dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate.
Twenty-three years ago, in FCC vs. League of Women Voters, the court concluded the scarcity rationale underlying the doctrine was flawed, and the doctrine was limiting the breadth of public debate. The U.S. Supreme Court made that series of rulings and, as a result, the FCC overturned it. And as a result of overturning that all of a sudden, the air waves blossomed with both conservative speech and liberal speech.
It’s not my fault that Air America didn’t find a huge audience out there and went bankrupt. There are others out there who have done very successfully. It has encouraged speech.
If the Fairness Doctrine is put back in place, as it was pre-1987, you will silence, not expand, public debate. I’ve been a broadcaster. I know what it was like when it was in place, and I know what it will be like again. And while I don’t always agree with those who are on the air waves, I will always defend their right to speak their piece because it actually energizes people to get involved.
So yes, I have a talk radio station and yes, it does have Rush Limbaugh on it, and it does have Sean Hannity on it and Michael Reagan and others. And this is what American broadcasting is about, in part.
But what we’re really about here is protecting the fundamental constitutional rights of first amendment speech that we stood on this floor and raised our hand to protect and uphold, and the courts have made it clear that reinstituting the fairness doctrine, if used to restrict speech, would be unconstitutional.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the distinguished Republican leader of the United States House of Representatives, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Boehner).
Mr. BOEHNER. Let me thank my colleague from Indiana for yielding, and thank he and his colleagues who have introduced this amendment for their work.
All of this talk about bringing back the Fairness Doctrine caused me to think about the whole idea of the Federal Communications Commission, set up in the 1930s to regulate the air waves and the spectrum that’s out there so that we didn’t have two radio stations on the same wave. This was set up in the 1930s.
And then in the 1940s we got into the idea that well, there aren’t that many options in TV and radio, and so maybe we ought to make sure that all of them, in terms of what they say, is fair.
Well, that might have been helpful in the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s, but my goodness, we’re in the 21st century, where people get their news from thousands of different sources. It could be radio, from hundreds and hundreds of radio stations. It could be from TV, where we now have hundreds and hundreds of stations. It could be from the Internet. It could be from the newspapers. There’s lots of places for people to get their news.
And at the end of the day, as I think about the Fairness Doctrine, I think about those of us in Congress. We get elected based on our constituents and what we’re for and what we’re against, whether they like us or they don’t like us. And if they like us, they might vote for us again. And if they don’t like us, guess what, they get to go punch the ballot for somebody else.
Well, when it comes to the issue of the Fairness Doctrine, when we’re dealing with radio, they can go a lot of different places. And I think that the best way is to let the judgment of the American people decide. And they can decide with their finger. They can turn it off or they can turn it on. They can change channels or they can decide to go to their computer and read it on the Internet.
And the idea that people are calling for the Fairness Doctrine to be called back reminds me, once again, of why I came here. I came here because I thought government was too big, it spent too much, and no one was holding the government accountable.
Let’s trust the American people to do what they think is best. Their finger can make all the decisions, all that they need to make on their own behalf. Let’s trust them to do the right thing.
Mr. PENCE. With gratitude to the Republican leader for his eloquent remarks, I yield 1 minute to the distinguished gentleman from Florida (Mr. Feeney).
Mr. FEENEY. I too want to thank Congressman Flake and the cosponsors of this amendment. Our friends on the Democratic side have two arguments. Number 1, they say this is a superfluous, it’s a red herring because nobody’s talking about it. But we’ve already had two of our colleagues on the Democratic side say that they like talking about and maybe rehabilitating the Fairness Doctrine, which is a bad misnomer. In fact, this is the leftist censorship doctrine, and we ought to refer to it as such.
The second argument that they give us is that Republicans ought to like the fairness doctrine because we’re always complaining about liberal bias in the media. And to that I would say this: The difference is that Rush Limbaugh knows and admits he’s a conservative.
Dan Rather and Katie Couric don’t know and they don’t admit that they are liberal. That is the difference. Rush will get regulated; the others will not. And I would tell you that the First Amendment, freedom of speech, means nothing if it means the government can tell you what you must say or what you must publish. The freedom of speech inherently means the freedom not to say certain thoughts or certain words.
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, no conservative, once said: “Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”
In China, North Korea, and elsewhere, they have their “fairness doctrines.” We don’t need one.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to a member of the Appropriations Committee, the distinguished gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Kirk).
Mr. KIRK. Mr. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I thank Mr. Pence for bringing this amendment and I support it. I do not think that we should spend taxpayer dollars to resurrect the 1929 doctrine, which was imposed by the old Federal Radio Commission.
Several Senators now say they don’t like free speech on radio and TV, and they are looking to exhume the body of a 1920s-era radio regulation because they do not want Americans to hear. This 1920s radio regulation, appropriately called a “doctrine,” was put into law by President Herbert Hoover. Remember, during that time, Western powers also signed a Kellogg pact that outlawed war, Alaska and Hawaii were not States, Mickey Mouse got his first cartoon, and Joseph Stalin became the unquestioned ruler of the Soviet Union.
This 1929 radio regulation that these Senators want to dig up was written when there was no TV, no cable, no Internet, not to mention no satellite or MySpace or YouTube. As kids today would say, this doctrine is so 20th century, and it should not be part of our 21st century.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the distinguished and eloquent gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Akin).
Mr. AKIN. Mr. Mr. CHAIRMAN, in just several days, America will be celebrating her birthday. As we enjoy the 4th of July, we recall the brave patriots who stood up to the biggest military power in the world and defended basic principles that they were willing to lay their lives down for. Their wives and their children suffered as well.
As they had a chance to develop a systematic form of government and to lay out the very most important things that they had suffered so hard for. The very first amendment to the Constitution was about free speech. The Founders believed that it was critical to protect property, and of all forms of property. The thing that issues from a man’s heart is the most precious. For a person to be able to have a belief and to be able to speak that freely is a precious thing not only to our Founders but to all who have been defenders of the first amendment.
I thank our colleagues who have issued this fantastic amendment. I think we should support it with the last drop of our blood and the last farthing of our treasure.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to a force of nature on the House floor, the gentleman from Georgia, Dr. TOM PRICE.
Mr. PRICE of Georgia. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I thank the gentleman for yielding time and I appreciate his leadership on this.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, freedom is the foundational principle of our society. Our Founders were champions of this God-given right and charged future generations with eternal vigilance to protect it.
We are here today because some very prominent Democrat leaders, including the Senate whip, want Uncle Sam to start telling radio and TV personalities what to talk about, to limit their freedom and ours. Rather than fight in the marketplace of ideas, they want to bring back a 1929 radio regulation known as the Fairness Doctrine, which has nothing to do with fairness.
A so-called “Fairness Doctrine” today tramples upon freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It dictates to Americans that in an open and free and flooded marketplace of ideas, they need Washington politicians to sort it all out.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, real freedom means a government that listens to the people, not one that dictates to the people whom they must listen to.
Let’s keep the Fairness Doctrine off our airwaves and in the history books where it belongs.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I am pleased to yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Garrett).
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I rise to strongly support this amendment by the gentlemen from Indiana and from Texas.
Fair and balanced media, truly a laudable goal. But, quite frankly, Mr. Chairman, we achieve that result when we do, in fact, let the public decide. They report; you do decide. That is more than just a catch phrase. That is what this American public is about.
You see, it is the market, and when I say the “market,” I mean the American people, for they are the best arbiters of what a free press is and to obtain it and they are the best mechanism to achieve it in this Nation. It is not the unelected bureaucrats of a central government that we must look to. We must look to the American public.
So I rise to strongly support this amendment, this amendment that will guarantee us a free press.
Mr. REGULA. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield to the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Westmoreland).
Mr. WESTMORELAND. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I want to thank my friend from Ohio for yielding and my friend from Indiana for offering this amendment.
Let me say this: there seems to be some doubt over there or something from the subcommittee Chair and the full committee Chair about why we don’t believe them. Well, in November they kind of snookered the public. They had told them that they were going to give more affordable health care to all Americans, which hasn’t been done. They were to bring gas prices down, which, hello, if you are out there at the pump, you know that’s not true. And then we were going to get away from dependence on foreign oil, which last night we saw that we voted not to do that but to be dependent on them.
So you fooled the public in November; so we don’t want you to fool us this time. And I think it is evident that you are trying to trick us when you had two Members go down and talk about the only reason why you are not going back against the Fairness Doctrine is because you don’t have the FCC.
And let me say you have said that the Republicans are calling this a red herring. Well, I want to say the majority party is looking at the Fairness Doctrine as the one that got away. The one that got away. You all want to recapture that one that got away.
So I hope that all of my colleagues will vote in support of this. I thank the gentleman from Indiana for offering it with Mr. Hensarling and Mr. Flake.
And I thank the gentleman from Ohio for yielding.
Mr. REGULA. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield to the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey).
Mr. GINGREY. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I thank the ranking member for yielding.
And I want to take this time to say how much I support the Pence-Flake-Hensarling amendment in regard to this so-called “fairness” issue. It would be patently unfair, this so-called doctrine.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say the same thing to the editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times and the Atlanta Journal Constitution? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say the same thing to Hollywood in regard to all these movies that our young people are being exposed to? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say the same thing to our public universities and colleges in regard to the teachers of political science and the guest lecturers and those who give the baccalaureate addresses? But freedom of speech doesn’t allow that.
I clearly endorse this amendment. The FCC should not spend one dime promoting this so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” which is anything but fair.
Mr. REGULA. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Gohmert).
Mr. GOHMERT. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I thank the ranking member for yielding. I appreciate that very much.
The Fairness Doctrine is such a misnomer. It may be an oxymoron, if you would. But one of the great things about this country throughout our history since we became a country has been that rather than have another revolution, people can express their views. They can say what they want. The Fairness Doctrine suppressed that a great deal and it fomented a lot of agitation.
As long as people can get out there and express their views, we’re going to be okay. We can disagree. We can fix things. We can complain about things. But when you run in and start saying you’re talking too much about this issue, you’re saying too much on this side, then we are looking for another revolution. I do not want to see that.
We don’t need the Fairness Doctrine, this misnomer. It is time to set it aside for good and move forward with free speech.
Mr. REGULA. Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pence).
Mr. PENCE. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I thank the distinguished gentleman for yielding and for his support of this amendment. And I also wish to thank the gentleman from New York for accepting this amendment.
I believe what we will do in this legislation will demonstrate a bipartisan commitment to freedom on the airwaves at a time that intemperate remarks are being made by others in Washington, D.C., both within the Capitol Building and within the punditocracy that surrounds this Capitol Building.
This Congress in bipartisan numbers, and I trust the numbers will be large, will say “yes”’ to freedom on the airwaves, “yes” to the freedom of expression, and “yes” to the freedom of the press.
I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reject the “unfairness doctrine” and vote “aye” on the Pence amendment on behalf of my colleagues JEFF FLAKE and JEB HENSARLING.
Mr. OBEY. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, as someone of note said a long time ago, it will be little noted nor long remembered what we say here today. Certainly this has not been one of the most scintillating debates in the history of the Republic.
But I do want to thank my friends on the right because if our folks on talk radio and yap yap TV, if they actually believed that there was a fiercely liberal press that dominated the country, then they would be running kicking and screaming, demanding a Fairness Doctrine. And the fact that the folks on talk radio and yap yap TV are doing just the opposite indicates to me that they are publicly admitting that they are not “fair and balanced.”
A lot of fun has been made of the FCC. It started in 1929, Herbert Hoover. Herbert Hoover was a very unlucky President who happened to be a very fine man and who had, I think, for his long illustrious life, a pretty good understanding of what it takes to be basically fair in this country. You ought to go back and read some of Herbert Hoover’s speeches. He takes a lot of guff, but he was a very impressive man, with a misguided economic policy, but he was a very impressive human being.
When the FCC was created, it was based on the idea that the airwaves, which were being licensed to private holders, were, in fact, property of the public and that it is sort of like our stewardship of the Earth. My religious beliefs tell me that we never really own property even if we have title to it. We lease it from God for a while and we have stewardship responsibility.
Now that in my view, is the same view that the government had when they started licensing radio stations. What they said to people who stood to make a lot of money with those licenses is, “Look, if you’re going to use the public airwaves, make sure that all sides get a fair shake of the argument.” That’s what it was all about. It has long since gone by the boards because of court decisions and other administrative actions by various administrations.
Right-wing radio today looks at those airwaves as being their open private preserve, and they’re not going to give them up at all. But don’t worry, I would not, for a second, want to see Rush Limbaugh or good old Sean moderated. I want to see the real, raw Rush. I want him and folks like him to be thoroughly and fully exposed to the American listening audience in all of their bloviating glory. I want to let Rush be Rush. And that isn’t going to bother me if he goes on for hours and hours with his one-sided diatribes. Everybody knows he’s plugged directly into Republican national headquarters. And so in my view, he is virtually discredited, and I would like to keep it that way.
So all I guess I would say, Mr. CHAIRMAN, is that I think we ought to let right-wing radio go on just as they do now. Rush and Sean are just about as important in the scheme of things as Paris Hilton. And I would hate to see them gain an ounce of credibility by being forced by a government agency or anybody else to moderate their views enough so that they just might become modestly influential or respectable.
With that Mr. CHAIRMAN, could I inquire of how much time is remaining on the other side?
The Acting CHAIRMAN (Mr. McDermott). The gentleman from Indiana has 1 minute.
Mr. OBEY. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I reserve the balance of my time and let the gentleman use his minute, and then I will close.
Mr. PENCE. There is no question that the chairman of the Appropriations Committee is a tough act to follow, but I appreciate his decorum, his demeanor and always his candor on this floor.
But let me reassure him and all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle that the bipartisan vote that I expect will be recorded today will be an encouragement to people on the right, to people on the left, and people in the center, people in front of microphones and people listening to those people on microphones because this House will say what some in the other body are not saying, and that is, we believe in freedom on the airwaves. We reject the archaic doctrines of the past that would have this Federal Government manage political speech on the public airwaves.
It is time that we come together as a Nation, we move past the archaic rules of broadcasting fashioned for a Depression-era America, and we embrace the dynamic national conversation that is the American media today.
Mr. CHAIRMAN, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. OBEY. May I inquire of the Chair how much time I have remaining?
The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman has 8 minutes.
Mr. OBEY. I won’t take the time, let me just simply sum up very briefly.
As the Chair knows, we’ve gone through the last 30 minutes debating a nonissue. The amendment has already been accepted by the committee. And I would expect that there will be an overwhelmingly vote for it because there is no prospect of any serious effort to revive the Fairness Doctrine, either legislatively or legally. And so, this has really been another political exercise.
I’ve almost given up expecting that substance will dominate legislative debate. We had a State senator by the name of Lynn Stalbaum, who served in Wisconsin many years ago. And the legislature was covered by a man by the name Aldric Revell. Aldric was an acerbic reporter who had the temperament of H.L. Mencken and a pen to match. And he wrote this about Stalbaum one day, he said, “Stalbaum is a superb legislator, but he has the maddening tendency to expect reason to dominate legislative debate.”
I don’t really expect, on issues like this, to have much common sense in the House. You get six like-minded people in this institution, they talk to each other in the cloakroom and they think they’ve conducted a public opinion poll.
So all I would say is, I fundamentally disagree with the gentleman who indicated that this is a highly important vote. I think, as another famous author once said, this is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Mr. DINGELL. Mr. CHAIRMAN, I rise in opposition to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Indiana concerning the Fairness Doctrine.
I am opposed to this amendment. The amendment concerns an important communications policy issue that is properly addressed in the authorizing committee. This is a classic example, of which I have seen many, of an attempt to legislate on a spending bill.
The Fairness Doctrine is an important, complex issue. It concerns many of the core policy values that Congress assigns to local broadcasters. It concerns the First Amendment, and localism in the media. It is, in short, an issue that should first be considered by the authorizing committee. For that reason alone, I oppose the amendment.
Even if the amendment were not procedurally defective, the amendment is entirely unnecessary. I understand from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman’s office that the FCC has no plans to even debate the issue, much less take action. In other words, there will be no action at the FCC on the Fairness Doctrine.
It is therefore unclear why the gentleman—who must know this fact—is even offering the amendment. I hope my colleagues consider that question as they vote on the amendment. I will vote against it.
[Roll No. 599]
Lungren, Daniel E.
Johnson, E. B.
Sánchez, Linda T.
Davis, Jo Ann
Ms. MOORE of Wisconsin, Mr. MEEHAN, Mr. ALLEN, Ms. BERKLEY and Mr. TOWNS changed their vote from “aye” to “no.”
Mr. LAMPSON, Mr. HASTINGS of Florida and Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas changed their vote from “no” to “aye.”
So the amendment was agreed to.