By Brad Friedman on 1/17/2011, 2:34pm PT  

Good for Congressman Nadler! Calling on the people's airwaves to be used, as required by law, in the "public interest"...

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on Friday that the Federal Communications Commission should reinstate the fairness doctrine for broadcast television to ensure that multiple sides of controversial topics are offered to the public.

“For over the airwaves TVs, I think they should bring it back,” said Nadler on Fox Business News with Andrew Napolitano.

“I think it makes sense for people to be able to hear as many sides of political opinions as possible, and as long as it's the people's airwaves that should be used for that purpose.”

Nadler’s comments come in the wake of the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), which has re-launched the debate over what role heated political rhetoric plays in the spurring people to take violent actions.

Nadler's comments follow on the heals of remarks by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) following the shootings in Tucscon. "Free speech is as free speech does," he is quoted by the The Post and Courier as saying. "You cannot yell ‘fire' in a crowded theater and call it free speech and some of what I hear, and is being called free speech, is worse than that."

Despite originally calling for a "clarif[ication of] the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum" on the White House website the day he was inaugurated, the Obama Administration has since retreated after false charges by the Right that Democrats intended to "censor" Rightwing talk radio. The passage was quickly removed from the White House website and, more recently, the Administrationhas said they have no interest in revisiting the Fairness Doctrine. (Though, we should note, that doctrine is not the only way to help restore fairness and balance to our public airwaves.)

The Fairness Doctrine, which had been enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since 1949, required those who used the limited and publicly licensed broadcast airwaves to at least attempt to offer opposing views on controversial issues, was ordered abolished by President Reagan in 1987.

The doctrine's abandonment immediately paved the way for round-the-clock, one-sided propaganda from nationally syndicated talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and scores of others.

Diversity of viewpoints shared in the public interest over our public airwaves was further brought to an end by the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed by President Clinton. The act, sold as a "boon to competition in the market" lifted the cap on the number of radio and TV station licenses that could be procured by a single corporation. For example, prior to the Telecom Act, the Clear Channel corporation owned just 59 radio and TV stations nationwide. After passage of the act, they were allowed to purchase and control more than 1,200.

In the bargain, real competition --- and virtually all pretense of fairness and balance --- on our public broadcast airwaves largely died, rather than flourish as supporters of the Telecom act had claimed (and as detractors, such as Ralph Nader, had predicted), as corporations were allowed to hold virtual monopoly control over political viewpoints on the nation's airwaves in nearly all major cities across the country.

The BRAD BLOG has covered this topic for years, long calling for fairness and balance to be restored to our public airwaves. Following the recent shootings in Tucson, we have revisited the topic again, most recently in an article highlighting Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik's spotlight on "vitriolic rhetoric" on radio and TV as an element helping to incite violence and bigotry in his city which features six Rightwing radio stations, but none offering a progressive voice. And in another article, posted the day after the shooting, we offered statistics on how bad the problem is across the entire nation.