Media

Focus on the Family's James Dobson Strikes Out Against the Fairness Doctrine

Focus on the Family leader James Dobson is making headlines for an upcoming broadcast that attempts to give presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama a biblical beating; see this Demver blog for details. But Dobson is just as exercised -- if not exorcised -- at the possibility that the resurrection of the so-called Fairness Doctrine might force stations that broadcast his program to give equal time to individuals who disagree with him.

In his view, that would be an unpardonable sin.

In the June 24 lead item on CitizenLink.org, a website affiliated with Focus, Dobson warns that "there is such a danger lurking out there with regard to all of conservative talk radio." That bogeyman is the fairness doctrine, a 1949 measure that was put in place, according to CitizenLink editor Jennifer Mesko, "to force the nation's TV and radio broadcasters to make time for voices on both sides of controversial issues" -- not such a bad thing in theory. However, Mesko writes that the doctrine was dropped "as new technologies offered an abundance of sources for information and viewpoints" -- and if it was put back in place today, "Christian radio stations discussing abortion likely would have to give airtime to a pro-abortion voice like Planned Parenthood." Egad! As such, Mesko goes on, "some stations may choose to avoid such topics altogether [sic]."

The piece goes on to note that Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican, "is trying to force a vote on the Broadcaster Freedom Act (H.R. 2905), which would prohibit the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine."

Pence says the Fairness Doctrine "represents an existential threat to conservative talk radio" -- something that Albert Camus would undoubtedly understand -- and Dobson urges his supporters to call their U.S. rep or sign an online petition supporting Pence's action. "If our listeners would like to continue to hear conservative views… if they would like to continue to hear Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, they had better respond quickly," he adds.

And if they don't? Then nothing speaks louder than silence. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts