Obama, Waxman to Square Off on Free Speech

by on February 18, 2009 · 11 comments

From FoxNews.com:

“As the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said.

If this is indeed the Obama administration’s official stance, the news couldn’t have come at a better time.  Just last week FCC officials met with Rep. Henry Waxman’s staff to discuss resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine under a new name.  Waxman, the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has also been looking into “fairness” issues on the Internet—creating an expanded, Fairness Doctrine 2.0.

The American Spectator reported on this reanimation of the long-dead doctrine and brought us this great quote from a Waxman staffer:

“It’s all about diversity in media,” says a House Energy staffer, familiar with the meetings. “Does one radio station or one station group control four of the five most powerful outlets in one community? Do four stations in one region carry Rush Limbaugh, and nothing else during the same time slot? Does one heavily trafficked Internet site present one side of an issue and not link to sites that present alternative views? These are some of the questions the chairman is thinking about right now, and we are going to have an FCC that will finally have the people in place to answer them.”

It doesn’t seem that Waxman’s real concern is having an FCC that can answer questions, but an FCC that will ignore its obligation to uphold the Constitution and sacrifice our freedom of speech on the alter of “fairness.”

Of course, none of this has anything to do with fairness, but has everything to do with politicians controlling what we can say, write, or otherwise express.

If Congress is somehow able to dupe the American people into accepting such speech restrictions—and President Obama doesn’t block a Fairness Doctrine 2.0—we can look forward to websites being patrolled by federal fairness cops, radio stations being staffed by stop-watch-toting FCC agents, and a presidential appointee sitting on the editorial board of every newspaper and magazine that still chooses to publish.

Let’s hope the President takes his oath seriously and defends the Constitution.  Our basic freedom to speak our mind—the most fundamental of all freedoms—may rely on Mr. Obama’s resolve.

  • dm

    You might want to note that both Waxman's office and the FCC deny the American Spectator's report, and, frankly, to avoid embarassing yourself, I wouldn't base a report on something I read in The American Spectator.

  • mwendy

    In Cord's defense – Waxman's telecom counsel came from the Free Press. I think we've already seen some of his work in the Stimulus – in the “Net Neutrality” provisions that were absent, and then reappeared, in the Conference Report/Agreement.

  • http://www.cordblomquist.com cordblomquist

    Can we get a link to either denial?

    If the reports are indeed false, that only means that Mr. Waxman isn't targeting the Internet for his politically motivated censorship regime. That's comforting, but it still means that the 1st Amendment is under attack when it comes to the airwaves.

    Regardless of the extent of Waxman's ambitions for the Fairness Doctrine, it's still a horrid concept.

  • dm

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/first100days/20

    Which states, “Both the FCC and Waxman's office denied the report.”

    When it was in place, the Fairness Doctrine was a fine concept — the cost of renting the airwaves from the public was to give the public access to the airwaves. Far from being counter free speech, it was a means of fostering it (recall the old Anatole France comment that “Freedom of the Press only applies to those with a press” — the Fairness Doctrine gave us all a means to use the press.

    As you've argued, it's not necessary now, because the public now has lots of alternative means to spread the word far and wide.

  • dm

    Gosh. I see now that I've just linked to the original Fox News report with which you begin your tirade. An earlier Fox report (the first thing Google turns up when asked about “henry waxman fairness doctrine”) goes into greater detail about the denial, saying:

    The committee vigorously denied the report. A spokesperson called the account “fictitious” in a statement to FOX News.

    “The American Spectator report is false and was written without any documentation or attribution,” the statement said.

    FCC spokesman David Fiske also disputed the claims in the piece, saying, “We're not sure that it's an accurate article.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/02/17/fair

    You may want to look at that article, since it more directly addresses your thesis.

  • http://thevitaminkid.blogspot.com autodidact

    Senator Tom Harkin is not retracting his support for the Fairness Doctrine.

    http://www.radioiowa.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objecti

    I'm sure he's not alone.

  • http://thevitaminkid.blogspot.com autodidact

    Senator Tom Harkin is not retracting his support for the Fairness Doctrine.

    http://www.radioiowa.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objecti

    I'm sure he's not alone.

  • http://thevitaminkid.blogspot.com autodidact

    Senator Tom Harkin is not retracting his support for the Fairness Doctrine.

    http://www.radioiowa.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objecti

    I'm sure he's not alone.

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