February 26, 2009 / 11:17 PM / 11 years ago

US Senate backs ban on media 'Fairness Doctrine'

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate passed an amendment on Thursday that would bar regulators from requiring broadcasters to give equal time to all points of view, a ban strongly supported by some Republican lawmakers.

The legislative amendment, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from reimposing the so-called Fairness Doctrine to all broadcasters. It was repealed more than 20 years ago.

Aides to President Barack Obama have said he has no intention of trying to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, but that has not stopped some Republicans from raising the issue.

Free Press, a media advocacy group that opposes bringing back the rule, said the issue was a distraction.

“An uncharitable interpretation is that they (Republicans) need an issue that unites their base and is an easy talking point for conservative radio,” said Ben Scott, policy director at Free Press.

Conservative talk show icon Rush Limbaugh recently decried the doctrine in a Wall Street Journal editorial.

DeMint said the doctrine violates the First Amendment and would suppress free speech by letting the government decide what is fair political dialogue.

An appeals court made that ruling, leading the FCC to repeal it in 1987.

Scott’s group agrees the government should not be decided what is fair and balanced, but said there is no clamor to bring it back.

The amendment was attached to an unrelated bill on voting rights for Washington, D.C. residents. Whether it will survive in the U.S. House of Representatives is uncertain. (Reporting by Kim Dixon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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