Senate Defeats Thune Fairness Doctrine Omnibus Amendment

Senators have defeated an amendment offered by Senator John Thune (R-SD) to the Omnibus Appropriations bill (H.R. 1105) by a vote of 47 to 50.

This amendment would “prohibit the FCC from using any funding in Fiscal Year 2009 to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine,” Sioux Falls Business News reports.  It’s similar to an amendment previously adopted during the Senate debate over the D.C. House Voting Rights Act.  Some Republican members fear it will be taken out by the House when they debate the measure.

Some background:

“I am concerned that the provision banning the so-called Fairness Doctrine will be dropped by the Democrat leadership when the Senate and House of Representatives ultimately go to conference on the DC Voting Rights bill,” said Thune. “My amendment to the Omnibus bill gives the Senate an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to protecting free speech on the airwaves and not subjecting political discourse to government censors in the name of ‘fairness.’”

First instituted by the FCC in 1949, the so-called Fairness Doctrine policy required individual broadcasters to restrict their coverage of political subject matters unless contrasting ideological positions were also included in the broadcast. In 1985, however, the FCC determined that the Fairness Doctrine had become outdated due to the diversity of media available for the expression of political viewpoints. Some Democrat members of Congress have expressed interest in reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

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