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Democrats Consider Reviving 'Fairness Doctrine'

A political battle is brewing over control of the radio airwaves as Democrats consider pushing for the revival of the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC policy that requires broadcast stations to provide opposing views on controversial issues of public importance.

Democratic lawmakers who support the doctrine say it will help increase the number of liberal shows in a landscape dominated by conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh.

"I absolutely think it's time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told liberal radio host Bill Press last week. She said she expects hearings soon on reviving the policy, which was introduced in 1949 and abolished in 1987.

Stabenow's husband, Tom Athans, is and has been an executive at several liberal radio talk groups.

But Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe said radio programming should be based on what brings in listeners and advertisers.

"I can't think of anything worse than to have government in a position to dictate the content of information going over public radio," said Inhofe, a Republican. "The whole idea is that it has to be market driven. We have a lot of progressive or liberal radio shows but nobody listens to them and every time one tries to get on, they are not successful."

Inhofe and other critics believe those pushing to bring back the Fairness Doctrine -- nicknamed the Hush Rush Doctrine -- want to diminish the influence of Limbaugh and other conservative talk show hosts. Supporters insist that's not the case.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told Press Wednesday that the Fairness Doctrine is needed not to remove any conservative voices, but to ensure that there are a few liberal shows on the air.

During the presidential campaign, a spokesman said Barack Obama did not favor reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. But his White House spokesman has since left the door open.

"I pledge to you to study up on the 'Fairness Doctrine' so that, one day, I might give you a more fulsome answer," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Inhofe says Democrats and liberal advocacy groups aren't going to let the matter drop.

"They are committed to make this happen," he said. "We got to be ready."

Inhofe introduced a bill this year to prevent reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, but he said he has not gotten a single Democrat to co-sponsor it. 

FOX News' Molly Henneberg contributed to this report.