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Most Americans Don’t Support Bringing Back The Fairness Doctrine

by @ 5:10 pm on February 16, 2009. Filed under Barack Obama, Fairness Doctrine, Freedom of Speech, Individual Liberty, Politics

It’s difficult what to make of all the talk about the Fairness Doctrine these days.

On the one hand, we’ve got fairly emphatic statements from Obama and other prominent Democrats that they do not support bringing back this relic of 1970s era content regulation.

On the other, we’ve got statements from a number of top Democrats including Rep. Henry Waxman, Senators Debbie Stabenow and Tom Harkin, former President Clinton, California Attorney General Jerry Brown to the contrary. And, yesterday, top Obama Adviser David Axelrod refused to rule out the possibility that the Fairness Doctrine might return:

“Will you rule out reimposing the Fairness Doctrine?” asked [Fox News Sunday host Chris] Wallace.

“I’m going to leave that issue to Julius Genachowski, our new head of the FCC, to, and the president, to discuss,” Axelrod said. “So I don’t have an answer for you now.”

In June, press secretary Michael Ortiz told Broadcasting & Cable that “Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters.”

That’s clear enough. But since becoming president, it’s been difficult to get such a definitive statement.

And, of course, the Hannity’s and Limbaugh’s of the world are riding this issue for all it’s worth. Even if it isn’t a real possibility, even the threat that it might happen is red meat for their listeners.

Judging from a recent Rasmussen poll, though, it appears that there isn’t any real public support for the idea of regulating media content in the name of fairness:

Just 38% of U.S. voters think that the government should require all radio stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary.

Forty-seven percent (47%) oppose government-imposed political balance on radio stations, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure which course is better.

These findings are a dramatic nine-point drop-off in support for the Fairness Doctrine from a survey last August when 47% said the government should require all radio and television stations to offer balanced political commentary.

Only 26% of voters believe conservatives have an unfair advantage in the media, the argument several senior congressional Democrats use in pushing for the restoration of the Fairness Doctrine. Sixty-four percent (64%) disagree.

Most (52%) liberals say conservatives have an unfair advantage, while 79% of conservatives and 64% of moderates disagree.

Even a majority of Democratic voters (53%) say that conservatives do not have an unfair advantage in the media.

Seventy-four percent (74%) of voters overall say it is possible for just about any political view to be heard in today’s media with the Internet, cable networks, satellite radio, newspapers, radio and TV available. Just 19% disagree.

So, there would appear to be almost no political upside for Obama in backing this idea and I continue to believe, as I said in December, that this really isn’t that big of a threat.

It would be nice to get a more emphatic statement from the Administration, though.

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