Why the Fairness Doctrine is Anything But Fair

Read the article here.

October 29, 1993
by Adam Thierer
Executive Memorandum #368
This key research from 1993 has been updated in James Gattuso’s new paper “Back to Muzak? Congress and the “Un-Fairness Doctrine”

Legislation currently is before Congress that would reinstate a federal communications policy known as the “fairness doctrine.” The legislation, entitled the “Fairness in Broadcasting Act of 1993,” is sponsored in the Senate (S. 333) by Ernest Hollings, the South Carolina Democrat, and in the House (H.R. 1985) by Bill Hefner, the North Carolina Democrat. It would codify a 1949 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation that once required broadcasters to “afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance.” The fairness doctrine was overturned by the FCC in 1987. 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. The legislation now before Congress would enshrine the fairness doctrine into law.

Here is what I think
What will this “Doctrine really do?
Here is the skinny on it.
Any and all broadcast stations that carry any political discussion programing will be forced to carry programming of other viewpoints. On the surface this sounds fair, right?
Well this is the way it will work.

Station “A” has Rush Limbaugh. They recieve a single complaint. That will mean they must also offer programing that expresses views other than Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh is being carried not because it is right or wrong. It is being carried because they have listeners who support sponsors. The stations can sell advertising to pay for the show. They would have to then carry programming such as is on the defunct liberal network “Air America”. Air America is defunct because they do not have enough listeners to support sponsorship. No one wants to hear their hate filled rantings. I have listened to these types of people and yes they are hateful and intolerant. If they disagree with you they want to shut you up. This is not freedom of speech.

The result would be thus:

1. The station could carry the alternative programing and not be able to sell advertising for it, meaning it would be carried for free.

2. The station would not carry any political disscussion programing because they couldn’t afford to give free air time away.

The net result would be that the only political viewpoints we heard would be from the admittedly left wing liberal press. Other viewpoints would be stiffled.

Freedom of speech would be lost. There are enough radio and TV stations to accomidate all points of view.

Tom

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