U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) took to the Toledo-area airwaves yesterday and laughed at the prospect of a revived broadcast Fairness Doctrine.
The congressman appeared on radio host Brian Wilson's talk show on WSPD-AM 1370.
During a discussion of the Fairness Doctrine, which many Democrats in Washington express interest in bringing back, Mr. Latta started laughing, then apologized for doing so.
"I can't help it. And you know, so what we're doing, is we're going to have the government prop up stuff that people don't want to listen to. This is what scares me about this," Mr. Latta said.
He continued: ''You know if the government was designing a car, it would look like the [inaudible] that car they made over there in Russia where they all left them on the side of the road and went and bought something made in the West."
Mr. Wilson replied, "When you have a monopoly on the use of power and the free market will not bless you with an audience, because your format, your content is for nothing, then the only way they can do it is to force people to listen by forcing successful people and successful stations to water down their programming accordingly.''
Earlier in his conversation with the radio host, Mr. Latta said: "And the thing is out there, and the other side doesn't seem to realize it, people pick what they want to listen to and they don't want the government telling them what they have to listen to."
The Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to provide equal time to opposing views on controversial subjects, was abolished in 1987.
But with the success of conservative talk radio, interest in revisiting the doctrine has spread to Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California; Sens. John Kerry of Massachussetts, Tom Harkin of Iowa, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and former President Bill Clinton, all of whom have endorsed the idea in recent months.
Mr. Latta told radio listeners yesterday that a dinner he attended recently included former Republican Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who is also a well-known television and film actor.
"I'm not sure if you heard, but he's going to be on the air of a hundred different stations with a radio program and, you know, the thing is, people want to hear it. And you know, the reason the other side fails, is people don't want to listen to that," Mr. Latta said.
Reached by phone last night, Mr. Latta said the possible reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine was a concern he heard from many of his constituents during the courthouse conferences he held in seven counties.
"They don't think it's the federal government's responsibility to tell them what they can and can't listen to," he said. "Besides problems they're having with Social Security and other problems with the government, this is a big topic. And I don't solicit these comments."