A victory for free speech

Alexander Bolton at The Hill reports that true lovers and defenders of free speech have something to smile about after yesterday:

The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using taxpayer dollars to impose the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters who feature conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

By a vote of 309-115, lawmakers amended the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill to bar the FCC from requiring broadcasters to balance conservative content with liberal programming such as Air America.

The vote count was partly a testament to the influence that radio hosts wield in many congressional districts.

It was also a rebuke to Democratic senators and policy experts who have voiced support this week for regulating talk radio.

House Democrats argued that it was merely a Republican political stunt because there is little danger of the FCC restricting conservative radio while George W. Bush is president.

Republicans counter that they are worried about new regulations if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Tuesday that the government should revive the Fairness Doctrine, a policy crafted in 1929 that required broadcasters to balance political content with different points of view.

“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine” he said. “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, said this week that she would review the constitutional and legal issues involved in re-establishing the doctrine.

Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic Party’s 2004 presidential nominee, also said recently that the Fairness Doctrine should return.

Gosh, wasn’t it just a few days ago that liberals in the leftosphere were claiming that the right wing was “falsely accusing” the left of wanting to bring back the Fairness Doctrine? Why yes, it was.

As they say, ignorance is bliss for some, I guess.

Captain Ed liveblogged some of the floor debate, which you can read here.

Watch video of Minority Leader McConnell smacking down the thought of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine here.

Brian Maloney reminds us, though:

At least for the moment, any attempt at bringing back the FCC’s former Fairness Doctrine (known as “Hush Rush”) has been shelved.

But over the long run, this largely symbolic, 309-115 House romp may not stop increasingly- determined Democrats from shutting down talk radio as we know it today. While today’s vote prevents using taxpayer dollars to fund any reimplementation of the agency’s past policy, the real test will come after the 2008 presidential election.

That’s when an elected Democrat president would have the opportunity to stack the FCC with the party’s own directors, which would mean an almost certain reimposition of free speech- stifling regulations. If Congress remains in Democrat hands, this scenario would be even more likely.

Indeed. We’ve got to move past our differences on other issues in order to combat future Democrat attempts at ‘regulating’ free speech.

Others blogging about this: Dee at Conservatism with Heart, Betsy Newmark, Mark in Mexico

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