"Partisan, biased material marketed as 'news' is increasingly contaminating our airwaves and democracy," said Rep. Slaughter. "Our democracy depends on an informed electorate. The media is crucial to supporting the free exchange of ideas and providing thorough coverage of the important issues facing our nation. The American public owns the airwaves. Reinstating the Fairness Doctrine would return integrity to the media and ensure that the American public is adequately informed on all points of view. I encourage all Americans to visit www.fairnessdoctrine.com to help us fight for this vitally important doctrine."
"Political discussion on our nation's airwaves has reached an all-time low," said Tom Athans, Executive Director of Democracy Radio. "Divisiveness and the politics of demonization and personal destruction dominate our airwaves and only serve to divide our nation deeper and deeper. For this reason alone, we should fully consider reinstating The Fairness Doctrine." Rep. Slaughter's bill, the Meaningful Expression of Democracy in America Act, or MEDIA Act, would reinstate the Fairness Doctrine to ensure that broadcasters "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance." The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the Federal Communications Commission between 1949 and 1987 that required radio and television stations to provide all sides of important or controversial issues and give equal time to political candidates. The Reagan Administration then abolished the policy, with President Reagan vetoing a bipartisan bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress in support of it.
Since the abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine, the nation has seen a dramatic increase of partisan news sources "reporting" biased news with no consequences. Sinclair Broadcasting Inc., a giant media conglomerate with ties to the Bush Administration, recently announced it would air an anti-John Kerry "documentary" on all its affiliates, which reach 25 percent of the population. Only after experiencing intense public outcry, a boycott and sinking stock prices did Sinclair agree to scale back its plans.
"Sinclair and other broadcasters use the public airwaves free of charge," said Rep. Slaughter. "It's their responsibility to serve the public interest and adhere to the highest standards of broadcasting. Airing blatantly political programming is a breach of the public's trust."
According to a Media Matters poll, likely voters overwhelmingly support rules restoring "balance" and "fairness" to the airwaves. When asked if TV and radio stations that use public airwaves should be required to present both sides of an issue, 77 percent of respondents said they should. In addition, 74 percent of conservatives and 71 percent of Republicans say that TV and radio stations should be required to present the issues in a balanced manner. Another Democracy Radio survey showed that 90 percent of all broadcast hours on talk radio are fairly characterized as conservative. Sinclair Broadcasting Incident Underscores Need to Restore Fairness to America's Airwaves
Washington, DC - Leading media experts Tom Athans of Democracy Radio, David Brock of Media Matters for America and Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Democracy Access Project have unveiled www.fairnessdoctrine.com to promote U.S. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter's (D-NY28) legislation to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Abolished during the Reagan Administration, the Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to equally cover all sides of important issues. The new web site offers comprehensive information on why the nation needs the Fairness Doctrine reinstated and a petition for supporters to demand that Congress restore balance to the airwaves.