Legislation was offered Wednesday by Rep. Bill Hefner (D-N.C.) that would reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, a former FCC rule that required broadcasters to air both sides of a controversial issue.
Hefner, an ex-radio broadcaster, sponsored the bill because “this is something he’s been interested in for a long time,” said an aide to the lawmaker.
“He simply believes there is a need for this.”
The Fairness Doctrine had long been a cornerstone of communications policy until it was repealed by then-chairman Dennis Patrick’s FCC in 1987.
The commission said the rule was no longer necessary because of the increased media diversity caused by the growth in such industries as cable TV.
After the FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine, Congress passed a bill codifying it into law.
However, President Reagan vetoed the bill, and Congress could not muster enough votes to override the veto.
No action since
No serious action has been taken on the Fairness Doctrine since.
Capitol Hill watchers believe there’s a good chance the doctrine will become law during the current Congress, since the Clinton administration is not believed to be opposed to the measure and since key Democrats support its passage.
Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) has sponsored Fairness legislation in the Senate.
Dingell’s for it
The Hefner bill in the House will be referred to the House Energy & Commerce Committee, where chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) is listed as a strong supporter.
A National Assn. of Broadcasters staffer said NAB has “strong opposition” to reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine.