Fairness Doctrine – not so fair is it.

October 21, 2008 at 4:49 pm 3 comments

Until yesterday I had never even heard of the Fairness Doctrine. Then in two separate instances yesterday I heard mention of it, so that must mean I should look into it and see what it is and then see if it is good or bad.

One was in this essay, obviously opinion – Memo to President Obama from 2010 and then again on Red Eye. (yes I was up very late)

So after hearing mention of it twice I decided to look it up. The doctrine was originally implemented to try and make sure that stations were giving opposing views on topics. They did not want stations/channels to impose singular views. That sounds almost reasonable. But is it next to impossible to enforce. Who decides what is balanced?

It is curious to note that when this was put in place there were far less options of what to watch or listen too. As well, the Republicans are against this legislation. It went out during the Reagan administration and they have fought to keep it as such. The Democrats are pushing to have it brought back, Pelosi is a strong supporter. The funny part here is by large the media leans far to the liberal Democrat side so why on earth do they even care? They are concerned about the success of conservative talk radio – Rush type people. I would venture to say the left has far more media outlets than the right so why can’t they just let it be. It does violate free speech and first ammendment rights. AND would all the other channels give a balanced view of the conservative? I doubt that.

McCain does not support bringing this doctrine back, he has actually worked to enact legislation to keep it from returning. Obama does claim to oppose a reinstatement of the “Fairness Doctrine.” But more recently, a campaign surrogate told a C-SPAN TV audience Obama had not taken a position on the doctrine. In addition, a source in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told B&C in July that he could not rule out a push from House Democrats to bring it back, either in this Congress or the next. (broadcasting cable)

And this from the New York Post:
Should Barack Obama win the presidency and Democrats take full control of Congress, next year will see a real legislative attempt to bring back the Fairness Doctrine – and to diminish conservatives’ influence on broadcast radio, the one medium they dominate.
More…

The Fairness Doctrine was an astonishingly bad idea. It’s a too-tempting power for government to abuse. When the doctrine was in effect, both Democratic and Republican administrations regularly used it to harass critics on radio and TV.

Second, a new Fairness Doctrine would drive political talk radio off the dial. If a station ran a big-audience conservative program like, say, Laura Ingraham’s, it would also have to run a left-leaning alternative. But liberals don’t do well on talk radio, as the failure of Air America and indeed all other liberal efforts in the medium to date show. Stations would likely trim back conservative shows so as to avoid airing unsuccessful liberal ones.

Then there’s all the lawyers you’d have to hire to respond to the regulators measuring how much time you devoted to this topic or that. Too much risk and hassle, many radio executives would conclude. Why not switch formats to something less charged – like entertainment or sports coverage?

The FCC discarded the rule because, contrary to its purpose, it failed to encourage the discussion of more controversial issues. There were also concerns that it was in violation of First Amendment free speech principles

So here is what the Fairness Doctrine states: (from wikipedia)

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was (in the FCC’s view) honest, equitable, and balanced. The United States Supreme Court has upheld the Commission’s general right to enforce such a policy where channels are limited, but the courts have generally not considered that the FCC is obliged to do so.[1] The FCC has since withdrawn the Fairness Doctrine, prompting some to urge its reintroduction through either Commission policy or Congressional legislation.

It was introduced in the U.S. in 1949 (Report on Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees, 13 F.C.C. 1246 [1949]). The doctrine remained a matter of general policy, and was applied on a case-by-case basis until 1967, when certain provisions of the doctrine were incorporated into FCC regulations.[3] It did not require equal time for opposing views, but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials.

Under FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler, a communications attorney who had served on Ronald Reagan‘s presidential campaign staff in 1976 and 1980, the commission began to repeal parts of the Fairness Doctrine, announcing in 1985 that the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated the First Amendment.

In one landmark case, the FCC argued that teletext was a new technology that created soaring demand for a limited resource, and thus could be exempt from the Fairness Doctrine. The Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC) and Media Access Project (MAP) argued that teletext transmissions should be regulated like any other airwave technology, hence the Fairness Doctrine was applicable (and must be enforced by the FCC).

In 1986, Judges Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the Fairness Doctrine did apply to teletext but that the FCC was not required to apply it.[6] In a 1987 case, Meredith Corp. v. FCC, two other judges on the same court declared that Congress did not mandate the doctrine and the FCC did not have to continue to enforce it.[7]

In August 1987, the FCC abolished the doctrine by a 4-0 vote, in the Syracuse Peace Council decision, which was upheld by the Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit in February 1989.[8] The FCC stated, “the intrusion by government into the content of programming occasioned by the enforcement of [the Fairness Doctrine] restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters … [and] actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and the degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists,” and suggested that, due to the many media voices in the marketplace, the doctrine be deemed unconstitutional.

It could really change things if brought back. I like the comparison I read that said requiring balance would be like making a country station play Toby Keith and then play Kanye West. They just don’t go together. You can find what you want to listen to.

Other links:

Why the Fairness Doctrine is anything but Fair.

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Videos Everyone Should See Out of touch – aren’t we. . .

3 Comments Add your own

  • [...] The Democrats are pushing to have it brought back, Pelosi is a strong supporter. The funny part here is by large the media leans far to the liberal Democrat side so why on earth do they even care? They are concerned about the success of …[Continue Reading] [...]

  • [...] In addition, a source in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told B&C in July that he could not rule out a push from House Democrats to bring it back, either in this Congress or the next. (broadcasting cable) …[Continue Reading] [...]

  • 3. Is anything ever really Fair? « Right Wing Chicks  |  February 27, 2009 at 5:37 am

    [...] 27, 2009 The Fairness Doctrine certainly isn’t. I have written about this before, and like I said then it is being brought back around again. I think this is a collossal mistake [...]

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