The debate over the Fairness Doctrine has up until now had a bit of a shadow-boxing quality to it. While opposition to the FCC rule has been abundant — it’s hard to turn on the radio without hearing some discussion of the issue — actual legislative proposals to reinstate the rule have been scarce.
Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, however. So, rather than wait for advocates of the doctrine to make their move, Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana, has decided to take the offensive by introducing his own legislation to ban the FCC from reinstating the rule. Specifically, Pence’s bill, to be introduced later this week, provides that the Federal Communications Commission “shall not have the authority to prescribe any rule, regulation, policy, doctrine, standard, or other requirement that has the purpose or effect of reinstating or repromulgating” the Fairness Doctrine.
While the bill’s chances for passage in the Democratic-controlled Congress are unclear, Pence’s bill is significant. First, it gives opponents of the Fairness Doctrine a clear goal around which to rally — endng the “will they or will they not” guessing game. Perhaps more importantly, the legislation potentially redefines the question at hand from “should regulation be imposed?” to “should regulation be allowed?”
It’s a good question, and a debate well worth having. Stay tuned.