FREE SPEECH -- Bruce Fein, writing in the Washington Times, talks about the origins of the Fairness Doctrine, which Democrats appear primed to revive, and which he played a role in repealing more than a quarter century ago.

As general counsel to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under President Ronald Reagan, I initiated regulatory repeal of the ill-conceived Fairness Doctrine that had suppressed free speech over the airwaves since 1949 by penalizing the broadcast of controversial issues.
    During the ensuing . . . years, not a crumb of evidence has surfaced suggesting that controversial subjects have been shortchanged in the broadcasting marketplace of ideas - the evil that the Fairness Doctrine purported to address.
    Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, in the 111th Congress is planning to exhume and breathe new life into the doctrine by legislative fiat.

Fein cites a respected journalist from the glory days of broadcast network public affairs programing as support for the notion that the Fairness Doctrine has always been intended to suppress right wing opinion on the airwaves.

Liberal author Fred Friendly recounts in "The Good Guys, The Bad Guys and The First Amendment" (1976) the confession of Bill Ruder, assistant secretary of commerce under President Lyndon Johnson: "Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue."
    Martin Firestone, a Democratic Party operative, similarly advised the Democratic National Committee that "right-wingers operate on a strictly cash basis and it is for that reason that they are carried by so many small stations. Were our [Fairness Doctrine] efforts to be continued on a year-round basis, we would find that many of these stations would consider the broadcasts of these programs bothersome and burdensome (especially if they are ultimately required to give us free time) and would start dropping the programs from their broadcast schedule."