Restore The Fairness Doctrine!

It is time to restore the Fairness Doctrine!
How many of you have heard of the Fairness Doctrine? Public broadcasters are licensed to use OUR airwaves. It used to be that in order to be licensed they were required to serve the public interest. One part of that public interest was to present a balanced view of different political viewpoints and to cover controversial issues of public importance. This “Fairness Doctrine” requirement was intended to protect the public from the possibility of moneyed interests buying up all of the information sources, leaving the public hearing only their viewpoint.
There was also a personal attack rule, which required stations to notify people or groups who were attacked on their broadcasts and give them the opportunity to respond on the air. And, candidates were given the opportunity to respond to attacks or endorsements of opponents.
Ronald Reagan’s FCC stopped enforcing and then got rid of the Fairness Doctrine. Congress restored it but Reagan vetoed that. Under President George HW Bush Congress again restored it but it was vetoed. Then, under President Clinton the House passed it but the Republicans in the Senate blocked it with a filibuster. In the last six years Republicans controlled the House, Senate and Presidency and were quite happy with broadcasters presenting only a narrow corporate viewpoint, and allowing personal attacks to go unanswered.
It is time to restore the Fairness Doctrine!
Restoring the Fairness Doctrine would open up America’s “marketplace of ideas.” It would help to restore civility to our public discourse. It would help restore our democracy.
If the Fairness Doctrine were restored we would begin to see a variety of issues covered by the broadcast media, from a variety of perspectives. Currently we only see subjects that the corporate world is interested in, covered from a pro-corporate perspective. Imagine the effect on the country if the public were exposed to a variety of viewpoints on issues like trade, consumer protection, sustainability, unions, health care, global warming and energy, religion, the environment, nutrition, and SO MANY other issues!
Imagine the effect on our civic discourse if stations had to give time for a response to everyone that Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter smeared on the air!
It is time to restore the Fairness Doctrine!

m4s0n501

16 thoughts on “Restore The Fairness Doctrine!

  1. Public broadcasters are licensed to use OUR airwaves.
    You’ve hopelessly confused the issue in the second sentence. Surely you mean all broadcasters, not just PBS.

  2. Ugh. Win the Congress on Iraq, then start springing crap on us. Nice. You just made me regret voting Democratic (partially) for the first time in my life. I thought I’d be able to feel good for at least a week!
    The Fairness Doctrine stifles free speech. It is clearly unconstitutional (why the Justices haven’t seen it that way in the past baffles me). The fact that the government owns an asset (the airwaves) does not give it the right to regulate speech. That’s the essence of the First Amendment.

  3. “The Fairness Doctrine stifles free speech. It is clearly unconstitutional (why the Justices haven’t seen it that way in the past baffles me). The fact that the government owns an asset (the airwaves) does not give it the right to regulate speech. That’s the essence of the First Amendment.”
    Seems to me that’s the exact opposite of what the Fairness Doctrine does. How does blocking free speech, which is definitely what we’ve been living with, encourage free speech? What the Fairness Doctrine accomplishes is make sure that more than one opinion DOES get presented, regardless of who owns the broadcasting companies. In other words, it prevents censorship, no matter who is in control of the broadcasting companies.
    Geez, I remember when we had fairness in broadcasting. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it, but it worked so much better than what we’ve been living through since Reagan. Someone like Limbaugh could still hold forth uninterrupted; the requirement would be that the station also make room for programs presenting other views, not that someone immediately blast him on his own show.

  4. You say: “How does blocking free speech, which is definitely what we’ve been living with, encourage free speech?”
    Who is being blocked from their right to free speech? Give me an example of this! Where are these people who have been denied their rights, and who will be made whole again when the Fairness Doctrine comes back?
    An effective response to a Rush Limbaugh does not need to appear on the same radio station that he is on. You can start a blog, write a letter to the newspaper, start your own radio show, or whatever. To require that the same broadcast channel make accommodations for opposing views will make all broadcasts more bland, less controversial and less useful for exploring new ideas and revealing new truths. That is, it will stifle free speech.

  5. “To require that the same broadcast channel make accommodations for opposing views will make all broadcasts more bland, less controversial and less useful for exploring new ideas and revealing new truths. That is, it will stifle free speech.”
    So, the only reason Rush and his ilk have the courage of their convictions now is because they don’t actually have to answer directly any challenges except as they see fit. Which is never. Got it.
    Why wouldn’t the certainty of a response from the opposition provide incentive to be more honest and inteeligent? Why does the certainty of a challenge to any potential lies and obfuscations automatically limit free speech, rather than improve its quality?
    “Free speech” is not the same when one guy has twenty million listeners daily, and the other has a soapbox on the corner. That’s what we have now, in terms of airtime. That’s wrong.
    CS

  6. The airwaves belong to the public, not the “government”. The “government” allows commercial ventures to profit from use of the airwaves, but should not allow what is essentially an abuse of the right of access for political and financial gain.
    Rush Limbaugh is a hate filled partisan hack, sponsored and paid for by political interests. He has almost nothing to do with free speech. Free speech is being stifled, and democracy corrupted, by this abuse of the public trust.

  7. I am always confused at how a million dollars a minute for an ad is “Free” speech, but of late even that is at risk when stations limit content on political grounds.
    Perhaps more important that the Fairness doctrine is the ownership doctrine. If you want to own a TV or Radio station fine. If you want to own ALL of them not so fine. Owning one press is free speech, owning, with a conspiracy of friends, All of them is anything but free speech.
    A law of only actual people owning no more than one license, with abusive use cause for revoking the license. Content could then be sold to any station and a REAL free market, much less free speech could occur. If the old anti-monopoly laws were enforced any conspiracy on price or content would be cause for jail much less revocation.
    And since the cable companies are both natural monopolies and, unlike the airwaves, unlimited in scope, net neutrality, needs to be enforced there as well.
    If such a program was in force, the fairness doctrine would have little use or effect.

  8. The general sentiment among Captain Sunshine and Firpin seems to be that we need to shut up Rush Limbaugh to protect free speech. Isn’t this just absurd? We need to protect the free speech rights of all (even those we don’t like).
    This was a nice attempt to cloud the issue: “The airwaves belong to the public, not the ‘government’.”
    Sorry, but they’re interchangable this context. The “public” hires the “government” to conduct its business. The “government’s” sole purpose is to look after the interests of the “public.” In terms of this discussion, both words mean the same thing.

  9. The general sentiment among Captain Sunshine and Firpin seems to be that we need to shut up Rush Limbaugh to protect free speech. Isn’t this just absurd?
    Yes, completely absurd. Because you’re lying about what I said. No other word for it. That’s what is absurd.
    What you seem to miss, sir, is that the current situation – the dominance of AM radio, major television media in primetime slots, and the majority of newspaper columns and editorial positions, by right-wing personalities – is directly a result of the destruction of the Fairness Doctrine. O’Reilly, Limbaugh and many others lie with impunity and confidence because they know they answer to no one. No fair opportunity is given to those slandered and dragged through the mud, by Hannity and Savage and Coulter and who knows how many others, to defend themselves to the audiences of those base purveyors of right-wing rhetoric. That is where free speech is lost, sir. Your inability to recognize the damage done by these personalities’ ability to hold forth on any topic without fear of contradiction, so long as free speech only supplies to those who can buy it, is both telling and pathetic.
    I don’t want Rush silenced. I want him answered. And the difficulty for any liberal talk-show host to secure broadcast time on any of the stations on which Rush broadcasts shows just how much of a sham your idea of free speech is. Certainly the free market is not free, nor even available, to those with different points of view, even those with money to pay. That’s the crime here.
    We need to protect the free speech rights of all (even those we don’t like).
    Problem is, the subjects of your free speech are protected, and promoted, in the current environment. Mine are not. Care to stand up for mine?
    CS

  10. “Problem is, the subjects of your free speech are protected, and promoted, in the current environment. Mine are not. Care to stand up for mine?”
    I don’t stand up for anybody, just for the principle. You are as free as he is to have radio show. You are as free as he is to get 20 million listeners. The fact that 20 million don’t want to listen to you is not a problem for the government should try to correct.
    You object to how many people Rush reaches v. how many your preferred talk-show host reaches. You want to “correct” this imbalance. However, Al Franken (or someone like that) has no disadvantage. He can get on the radio and go to battle (and he has). He will succeed or fail on his merits (he unfortunately has failed). So, tough shit. I wish there some decent liberal commentators out there – because I would be very interested in what they have to say. The fact that they don’t seem to exist is not a problem for the government (or the public!) to solve. It’s a problem for the liberals to solve.

  11. Do a little research, sir. You will find plenty of evidence that good, marketable liberal commentators exist in the market, and cannot get or hold positions because of the rightward bent of the editors and programmers at the TV stations and radio corporations.
    Phil Donahue is a good example. He had better earnings than others on MSNBC in the neighboring prinetime timeslots – better than his replacement for that slot, Joe Scarborough, who never matched his numbers – but he got canned and they didn’t. Obviously his ratings weren’t why his show was cancelled. Ed Schulz is another. He was all signed up to expand into several East Coast radio stations a couple of years ago, when his contract was pulled without explanation. His show was supposed to air on some of the same radio stations as Rush Limbaugh, and Rush told the stations that he would pull his show if they allowed Schulz’s program on the same stations as his. That’s not an open market. That’s what I want to fix.
    The fact that 20 million don’t want to listen to you is not a problem for the government should try to correct
    The fact that good liberal radio personalities can’t get a contract to even try and earn listeners, or get dumped without any business reason (or for reasons that don’t pull conservative commentators off the air) IS a problem for the government to solve. It’s called monopoly and media consolidation. It’s called undue influence. It’s called blacklisting, and your side is guilty of it. Schulz is in the top ten list for radio commentators nationwide, by the way, and he broadcasts from North Dakota. Most of his 3 million weekly listeners are in the Great Plains and southern Canada – not what you’d call liberal country (but apparently…). You’d think he’d have a big potential audience on the Left Coast, but he’s only on six stations in California. Few stations carry him on either coast. I don’t think it’s because he’s a poor commentator.
    What I object to is that conservatives use their influence to ensure that liberal radio and TV hosts don’t get a fair shot at the “free” market. You can’t play the game if they won’t sell you a seat. That’s what the Fairness Doctrine is about.
    And note, please, that no one here is arguing for censorship. Now that the Democrats have a little power, they want a place at the table, not to take over the table and shut everyone else out as the Republicans have done. You continue to be obtuse about this. I have to assume it’s on purpose.
    CS

  12. So. . .
    I Say – “start your own radio show”
    You Say – “I can’t because the networks are run by a bunch of conservatives who are biased”
    Its it really hard to predict what I would say to that?
    I Say – “Then start your own network!”
    Seriously, if the networks are as foolish as you say and allow themselves to be blinded by their supposed conservative bias, then there is an opportunity for a liberal entrepreneur to start a network. He can get Phil Donahue (apparently he’s available). Since Phil and his ilk are great moneymakers (I’ll take your word for it on that), this will be one successful network!
    Do you really think network executives aren’t interested in maximizing profits? Believe me, they don’t see Red or Blue – they’re 100% Green (as in $$$)! They’ll put anything on the air as long as it’s profitable.
    I remain unconvinced about the fairness of the “Fairness Doctrine.”

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