Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is joining Republican conservatives who are fighting what they perceive to be Democratic threats to talk radio.

He became a co-sponsor this week of the Broadcaster Freedom Act, designed to ensure that Democrats and the incoming Obama administration cannot reinstate the Fairness Doctrine that the Federal Communications Commission repealed in 1985.

The rule, put in place in 1949, had required broadcast outlets to air contrasting points of view on controversial topics in an era when relatively few broadcast outlets existed. Guidelines were vague enough that some broadcasters avoided controversial topics.

Chaffetz said, "Since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio has grown rapidly due to the power of the free market. Some want to attack the free market of ideas by telling broadcasters what viewpoints they must supply. America's founders would be appalled to see the government trampling the First Amendment rights of free press through the kind of micromanagement the so-called Fairness Doctrine requires."

Many top Democratic leaders say the party has no intention of bringing back that rule — and say Republicans are creating a fictional bogeyman to fight. But enough Democrats upset over attacks from talk radio had voiced support for the rule's return that conservative columnist George Will predicted it would be reinstated if Obama were elected.

The National Association of Broadcasters on Thursday hailed the new bill and its sponsors and co-sponsors, saluting what Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton said is "their dedication to ensuring Americans have continued access to free and robust press unfettered from government interference."

The bill was reintroduced in the House by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., a longtime radio station owner and operator. He said, "The founders would spin in their graves at the thought of the government censoring speech on many of today's radio and television stations. Yet that's just what some Democratic leaders seem to be after."


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