Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, defends his support of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine for broadcasting. The doctrine had required radio and television stations to cover controversial issues of public importance and give and opportunity for all sides to be heard.
The Fairness Doctrine was eliminated in 1987, but calls for reviving it had surfaced again recently. Harkin says it’s something he supports. Harkin says a few years ago he found out that the taxpayer funded Armed Forces Radio was running the Rush Limbaugh show, but weren’t running any "progressive" talk.
"So I came out and said if the taxpayers are paying for it, at least our armed services individuals ought to have at least the benefit of hearing the other side of the story, to quote Paul Harvey," Harkin says. Conservatives like Iowa Congressman Steve King, a Republican, believe the move is an attempt to silence conservatives like Limbaugh. King issued a statement in response to Harkin saying information is now easily accessible in many forms and the Senator "wants to squelch your First Amendment rights in favor of Chinese-style censorship."
Harkin says he’s just trying to be fair. Harkin says he concerned about the fact that the public owns the airwaves and they are licensed out. He says we’ve seen the "erosion of a lot of independent stations, more and more stations owned by one entity, like Clear Channel that went from 10 stations to 12-hundred stations, so they control things." Harkin says the other side of issues isn’t being heard.
Harkin says there’s "good data" to show that in many cities progressive talk show hosts bring in good money and are well liked. Harkin cites Ed Schultz as an example, "Every time Ed Schultz goes up against Rush Limbaugh in a market, he beats him. But (radio group owner) Clear Channel won’t put him on," Harkin says. Harkin was asked if there’s more a need to change the ownership limit on stations than there is for a fairness doctrine.
Harkin says he doesn’t know, but is willing to look at all avenues of approaches on this. "But this is something that really cries out for some government involvement so that people are able to access different points of view on publicly owned airwaves," Harkin says. One of the major backers of the return of the Fairness Doctrine is Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow. Stabenow’s husband was once a vice president at "Air America" a liberal radio network that went bankrupt after only two years of operation.