By Bob UnruhÂ© 2009 WorldNetDaily
Talk radio icon Michael Savage is joining forces with a Michigan-based civil rights advocacy organization to protect free speech by fighting the return of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine."
"A regulation of speech motivated by nothing more than a desire to silence political opposition on controversial issues of public interest is the purest example of a law abridging the freedom of speech," said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.
"Such action is the hallmark of totalitarian governments, not a free society," he said.
The Fairness Doctrine was abandoned in 1987, but leading Democrats increasingly have called for its return.
Among its advocates are former Democratic President Bill Clinton and Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has affirmed her support to Human Events reporter John Gizzi for a "fairness" policy, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., told radio host Jim Villanucci, "I would want this station and all stations to have to present a balanced perspective and different points of view, instead of always hammering away at one side of the political [spectrum]."
Michael G. Franc, writing on the National Review's "The Corner" blog, noted that Attorney General Eric Holder also has refused to commit to opposing the idea.
The Fairness Doctrine, originally introduced in 1949, required that radio and television stations with a broadcast license air contrasting views on matters of public importance. The policy made it practically impossible for talk radio to make a profit, because the market would not bear a lineup with an equal number of programs from the left and right. Since the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned in 1987, more than 2,000 radio stations - the vast majority identified as politically conservative - have adopted a talk radio format.
"Michael Savage is the personification of what the liberals hate about conservative talk radio," said Thompson, "and we're proud to represent him in this crucial battle to preserve the grand purpose of political speech protected by the First Amendment.
"With the stink of public corruption blanketing Washington, with our elected officials passing the single largest spending bill in our nation's history without even reading or debating it, with the increasing nationalization of our financial institutions, with almost dictatorial control of Congress by one political party, and with increasing signs we are becoming a socialistic country, Americans need more dynamic talk show hosts like Savage, not less," Thompson said.
Savage's nationally syndicated show, "The Savage Nation," is one of the highest-rated talk shows in the U.S.
The Thomas More Law Center is the second such organization to position itself to battle any proposed version of the Fairness Doctrine, whether known by that name or another.
Just days ago, the American Center for Law and Justice said its "litigation strategy" is prepared should the doctrine â€“ or a similar regulatory measure â€“ "be brought back to muzzle Christian broadcasting."
The organization said more than 230,000 people have signed its petition urging members of Congress to support the Broadcaster Freedom Act.
About 66,000 more have signed WND's own petition on the issue.
"If the doctrine is so fair, why are the liberals limiting it only to radio?" Thompson asked. "Why not television, the Internet, and all the print media?"
Re-introducing the policy has been discussed for years among Democrats, but former President Bush stated flatly it was unneeded and would face a veto. But the Thomas More Law Center said with total Democratic control in Congress and the White House, it could be resurrected either by regulation of the Federal Communications Commission or by Congress.
"Whatever form its reinstatement may take, any limitation on the free speech rights of Michael Savage will result in an immediate legal action," the law center said. "The U. S. Supreme Court would most likely find any reinstatement of the Doctrine unconstitutional."
Law Center attorney Robert Muise has been assigned to lead the effort, which already is attracting offers of assistance from lawyers across the nation.
Savage is a longtime on-air supporter of the Thomas More Law Center. He used his radio show to marshal support for one of the center's clients, Marine Lt Col. Jeffrey Chessani.
Chessani is being prosecuted by the government in the so-called Haditha incident. A military judge ultimately dismissed the case. However, the government appealed. No decision has been made by the appeals court.
WND has reported that RasmussenReports.com reveals that only 38 percent of U.S. voters believe the government should require radio stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary.
The report said 47 percent oppose such demands, a drop of support for the government policy of 9 percent in just the past few months. The report said only 26 percent of voters think conservatives have an unfair advantage in the media, an argument on which much of the congressional support for new regulations is based.
However, Rasmussen also reported 51 percent believe it is at least somewhat likely Democrats in Congress will restore the regulations anyway. The survey of 1,000 likely voters was done Feb. 12-13 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.