In 1949, drawing on a long history of court decisions; on public hearings; and on legislation mandating “equal time” for political candidates, the F.C.C. ruled that holders of radio and television broadcast licenses must “devote a reasonable percentage of their broadcast time to the presentation of news and programs devoted to the consideration and discussion of public issues of interest in the community,” and that this must include “different attitudes and viewpoints concerning these vital and often controversial issues.”
The Supreme Court repeatedly upheld the F.C.C.’s power to make such a rule — but never gave it the power of law. In 1986, a pair of Ronald Reagan’s judicial appointees on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia, ruled that the Fairness Doctrine was not “a binding statutory obligation.”
Armed with this verdict, Fowler, who insisted on viewing television, in particular, as not a finite and supremely influential broadcast medium but “just another appliance — it’s a toaster with pictures,” persuaded his fellow commissioners to abolish the Fairness Doctrine. Furious Democrats in Congress passed legislation to codify the doctrine into law in 1987 and 1991, but these attempts were vetoed by Reagan and George Bush, respectively; Democrats have gone on trying to make the Fairness Doctrine law to this day, but have always been stymied by adamant Republican opposition.
Also under Clinton Republicans filibustered.
After that Dems turned into the party they are now, and didn’t even try.