A national signature drive was officially kicked off two weeks ago on the steps of California’s state capitol building.
The movement, backed by the Republican caucuses in the state Assembly and Senate, aims to oppose the resurrection of specific portions of the Fairness Doctrine.
Instituted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1949, the Fairness Doctrine required media outlets to present important public issues in a balanced manner. Conservatives mostly opposed the Doctrine, saying that it violated free speech and the right to convey opinions in mass media. In 1987, the FCC discontinued the use of the Doctrine, and a presidential veto by Ronald Regan ensured that the legislature didn’t bring it back.
Now the issue may be coming to the forefront again, as President Barack Obama has publicly stated his support for looking into the definition of “localism”.
The term “localism” applies to broadcast media outlets, and it strictly requires radio and television stations to provide content in line with their local community’s interests. Conservatives are worried that a change in the language defining localism could limit and directly interfere with a station’s programming.
Conservative talk radio is one of, if not the biggest opponent of a language change, because the stations’ appeal rests in their distinctly conservative programming. Opinions run rampant in their shows, however their audience specifically tunes in for that reason.
“If you think about it, talk radio is the last bastion of free speech,” said California Republican Party Vice Chairman Thomas Del Beccaro. “If they start regulating down this road and cutting off our right to information and our right to free speech, what’s next?”
Del Beccaro believes that politicians should have more important items on their to-do-list.
“We want Washington DC to concentrate on national defense, not taking away our rights, our freedom of speech,” said Del Beccaro. “We want to keep the airwaves free for both the small stations and the large stations, so that talk radio can flourish.”
As the organizer of the kick-off event in Sacramento, Del Beccaro says that the drive will focus on getting one million people to sign a petition in opposition of any changes to the way radio and television stations present their programming.
The first signature on the list was that of Santa Clarita’s representative in the California State Assembly Cameron Smyth.
“What we’re trying to do is send a message to Washington that the so called Fairness Doctrine and Diversity Doctrine are not needed when it comes to talk radio,” said Smyth. “If you simply don’t like what you’re hearing on the airwaves, change the channel. That’s what the first amendment is like.”
To read more about this drive and its proponents, click here.
To sign the petition, click here.