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Gearing up to pass the Fairness Doctrine
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The first indicator that an attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine was afoot was the publishing of a study on political talk radio put out by a liberal think tank which claimed the genre suffered from a "structural imbalance" that needed to be fixed by Congress.

Then there was the little he-said-she-said incident in which Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said he'd overheard Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) complaining about right-wing talk radio and their desire for a "legislative fix". That has been followed by a plethora of statements which seem to give credence to the feeling that Democrats will again try to regulate talk-radio and mute its predominantly conservative voice. For instance, Sen. Dick Durbin:
“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”
Sen Diane Feinstein:
“I believe very strongly that the airwaves are public and people use these airwaves for profit,” she said. “But there is a responsibility to see that both sides and not just one side of the big public questions of debate of the day are aired and are aired with some modicum of fairness.”
Of course the obvious answer to their concern is to direct public supported National Public Radio to air "both sides", but for some reason, that seems to be persistently left out of this debate. Instead, it is all about commercial talk radio and nothing else. No newspapers, no TV, no satellite radio, no internet. Only terrestrial talk-radio, mostly on the AM band.

The latest to weigh in is John Kerry. That was from an interview today on WNYC radio (hey, where's the conservative rebuttal? Just kidding.).

Now I hate to be one of those "if'n yer fer it, I'm agin it" types, but John Kerry just brings that out in me. His world views and mine are about as far apart as two can be. But in a larger sense, this is a fundamental political free speech problem which the Democrats seem bound and determined to attempt to regulate. John Kerry, et. al., have never really struck me as the types who much care what the Consitution says if adhering to its strictures doesn't serve their political purposes. And this is a perfect example.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) is fighting back in the House with a piece of legislation called the "Broadcaster Freedom Act" which would do the following:
"The Broadcaster Freedom Act will prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from prescribing rules, regulations, or policies that will reinstate the requirement that broadcasters present opposing viewpoints in controversial issues of public importance. The Broadcaster Freedom Act will prevent the FCC or any future President from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine."
In other words, he's asking Congress to prohibit the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine as well as prohibiting the President, now and in the future, from issuing an executive order or regulatory change which would reinstate it.

Sounds "fair" to me, if you believe that political speech should be protected and all of that. Notice that the 1st Amendment never states speech must be 'fair' or 'balanced', it simply states that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech". I continue to wonder what part of "shall make no law" they don't understand.

Pence, along with Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)have also introduced an amendment to the Financial Services Appropriations Bill, which for whatever reason the FCC is funded, to prevent any funds from being used to enforce the Fairness Doctrine. A part of "using the purse strings" portion of the power of Congress to attempt to defeat any Democratic push to enforce it. It will, most likely go down in flames but at least someone is attempting to thwart this pernicious and misguided attempt to control free political speech.

Pence makes a very important point which needs to be understood if this attempt at government control of political views on the airwaves succeeds. In all likelihood, it won't 'balance' anything. Instead of stations placing liberal hosts on the air in an attempt to balance the conservative views (such as those of Limbaugh and Hannity), because of legal and administrative costs, they'll most likely not carry either. They'll simply change the programing to pablum or a different format.

I don't think anyone, to include the liberal side (not counting their politicians who would love that outcome) want that as an end-state.

Anyway, thought I'd update you. I posted earlier in the week concerning why I found the liberal argument concerning talk radio to be wanting. In light of this renewed push for speech control, it might be worth rereading. And take a moment to reread this as well.
 
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I’m for the fairness doctrine.

Every story about global warming must have equal time for global warming skeptics.

Every story about violence in Iraq must have equal time for a story about progress in Iraq.

Every story about bad news in the economy must have equal time for good news about the economy.

I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.
 
Written By: A.S.
URL: http://
Might be time to reread this, too.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Thanks Billy ... I linked it in the post.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Hugo Chavez is not a dictator.

Free speech is fair speech.

Bush = Hitler

Etc, etc., etc.
 
Written By: It Goes On
URL: http://
I’m for the fairness doctrine
So am I. The Dems won’t have power forever. Once they leave, we can use the Fairness Doctrine on ABC CBS NBC CNN and PBS.

This can be fun!
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
How far does the desire for "both sides" go? And why does Feinstein think there are only two sides? Seriously, sometimes one side deserves more attention (holocaust deniers really don’t deserve equal time), and depending on the issue there are numerous sides. Our two party system often pushes away other perspectives and gets a ’mainstream’ democratic or republican perspective, but if that’s the case why not demand equal time for libertarian, socialist, religious, etc., perspectives.

Not every perspective is equal. If the news from Iraq is very bad one day, it would be silly to make people seek out good news to "balance" it. If a vast majority of scientists believe global warming is real and humans play a role, it would be silly to try to give equal time to skeptics (though skeptics should be heard). It is an absurd post-modern view that just because a perspective exists, it not only is valid but deserves equal time.

Now, I don’t like talk radio, the rhetorical strategies of especially folk like Hannity are often dishonest. But I’d rather the market give me sensationalism and entertainment over real debate if the alternative is to allow the government to decide what the two legitimate "sides" are, and how they should be balanced.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
This can be fun!
Sure, the way wearing the One Ring would be fun at parties.
"I would use this ring from a desire to do good... But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine. "
All joking aside, let’s not and say we didn’t.


Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Let me preface what I’m about to say by noting that I do not support the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. I think the FCC has better things to do.

That said, just about everything you say here is inaccurate, McQ. The Fairness Doctrine never required that broadcasters provide equal time to opposing views. It just required that station owners devote "some" time to important issues and attempt to let all sides be heard when doing so.

The Supreme Court has held that this does NOT violate the First Amendment, and for obvious reasons. The public owns the airwaves; they just lease them to broadcasters. That means Congress can require that stations devote some time things it believes to be in the public’s interest. This is uncontroversial as a legal matter.

Moreover, Feinstein and Durbin (and Limbaugh) are wrong when they suggest that the demise of the Fairness Doctrine is what led to conservative dominance of talk radio. The doctrine wasn’t abolished until 1987, and by then conservative radio had already taken off and was thriving. The Fairness Doctrine had nothing to do with this phenomenon.

And even if the Fairness Doctrine was reinstated, it would be unlikeley to change much. There might be a few more hours a week devoted to other view points, but Limbaugh would still rule the airwaves.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
I’m for the fairness doctrine.

Every story about global warming must have equal time for global warming skeptics.

Every story about violence in Iraq must have equal time for a story about progress in Iraq.

Every story about bad news in the economy must have equal time for good news about the economy.

I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.
It wasn’t that way when the Fairness Doctrine was operating, it won’t be that way if it’s reinstated.

 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
So am I. The Dems won’t have power forever. Once they leave, we can use the Fairness Doctrine on ABC CBS NBC CNN and PBS.
This cracks me up. I love the way conservatives riducule the CAP report for suggesting there is any "structural imbalance" in talk radio, but then immediately turn around and claim that all other forms of media are dominated by "liberal bias." A central tenet of modern conservative belief is that there is a massive "structural imbalance" in the news, one that favors liberals. Why does the magic of the market work only in radio? If conservative views are so popular, why are they supposedly absent from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and PBS?

 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
If conservative views are so popular, why are they supposedly absent from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and PBS?
AL, you know that network news ratings have sunk quite a bit of late. Don’t you think a part of that is consumers seeking conservative views? It’s only been in the relatively recent past that more news sources have been available to people.
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
AL -

Katie Couric’s ratings.

That is all.
 
Written By: T
URL: http://
AL, go find me a conservative who is seriously advocating using the Fairness Doctrine on Alphabet TV.

And we won’t even discuss the difference between commentary and what’s supposed to be the news.

Piss-poor effort at logic from another lefty. Shocking.
 
Written By: spongeworthy
URL: http://
AL, go find me a conservative who is seriously advocating using the Fairness Doctrine on Alphabet TV.
I didn’t suggest anyone was. My point was that conservatives mock the notion that there is any "structural imbalance" in radio, but constantly whine about the supposed structural imbalances in every other medium.

Why is the market so effective in radio, but so ineffective in TV?
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
"Why is the market so effective in radio, but so ineffective in TV? "

Are you dense? The TV ratings for liberal shows are dropping like anvils. The market is effective, people are watching less liberal TV, which is why "progressives" are resorting to censorship.
 
Written By: It goes on
URL: http://
The Fairness Doctrine never required that broadcasters provide equal time to opposing views. It just required that station owners devote "some" time to important issues and attempt to let all sides be heard when doing so.

Nonsense.
The Fairness Doctrine was a regulation of the United States’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which required broadcast licensees to present controversial issues of public importance, and to present such issues in what was deemed an honest, equal and balanced manner. It has since been repealed by the FCC and aspects of it have been questioned by courts.
It was much more rigid than that:
The FCC took the view, in 1949, that station licensees were "public trustees," and as such had an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance.
Tell me AL, how do you define ’reasonable opportunity’ and "obligation", and who gets to define what constitutes a ’controversial issue’ within that ’obligation?’

And the law of unintended consequences provided precisely the opposite effect intended. As mentioned, most saw it as an infringment on their First Amendment rights:
The doctrine, nevertheless, disturbed many journalists, who considered it a violation of First Amendment rights of free speech/free press which should allow reporters to make their own decisions about balancing stories. Fairness, in this view, should not be forced by the FCC. In order to avoid the requirement to go out and find contrasting viewpoints on every issue raised in a story, some journalists simply avoided any coverage of some controversial issues. This "chilling effect" was just the opposite of what the FCC intended.
Seems to me that a ’chilling effect’ is something which those who are 1st Amendment supporters would want to avoid at all costs.
The Supreme Court has held that this does NOT violate the First Amendment, and for obvious reasons.
Not exactly:
But the Court said that if the doctrine ever began to restrain speech, then its constitutionality should be reconsidered. Without ruling the doctrine unconstitutional, the Court also concluded in a subsequent case (Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241) that the doctrine "inescapably dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate".
Sounds like the court’s decision wasn’t as cut-and-dried as you’d like to pretend. Again, it would seem that a proponent of First Amendment freedoms would not want legislation or regulation which "inescapably dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate", wouldn’t you?

Thankfully, with today’s court vs. those who originally ruled on its constitutionality, I almost hope it gets passed so it might have a stake driven through its heart once and for all.

While you may have no problem with restraints on political speech (my bet is you’re a McCain-Feingold supporter), I do.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
McQ, do you deliberately not read what I write? I said in my very first sentence that I don’t support the Fairness Doctrine. I think it was a silly, unmanageable rule. You then proceed to attribute the exact opposite view to me in your response.

My point was only that there is a lot of revisionist history out there on both sides. People seem to have forgotten what the doctrine was and what it actually required. For instance, the idea that the doctrine required "equal time" is hogwash, and the sources you offer to refute that don’t in fact refute that. The rule never required that stations provide only "balanced" views. What it did require was that stations devote some time to covering political issues and that they try to present all sides. They didn’t have to provide 50/50 coverage. There was enormous latitude to meet your public service obligations however you saw fit. Conservative talk radio was already flourishing before the doctrine was repealed.

And if the doctrine was reinstated (which I hope it is not), its proponents will be chagrined to see that it has very little effect on balance of coverage on talk radio.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
Are you dense? The TV ratings for liberal shows are dropping like anvils. The market is effective, people are watching less liberal TV, which is why "progressives" are resorting to censorship.
So every station except Fox has had a blatant liberal bias for the last 50+ years and the market is just now starting to adjust (but just a little bit). That makes sense. Quite an efficient market.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
McQ, do you deliberately not read what I write? I said in my very first sentence that I don’t support the Fairness Doctrine. I think it was a silly, unmanageable rule. You then proceed to attribute the exact opposite view to me in your response.
Really ... all I did was quote what your wrote. It was an answer to the nonsense you were spouting, whether you believed that nonsense or not. That’s the way this medium works.

What, are you now claiming you didn’t mean what you wrote? Or are you claiming that because you claim not to believe in the Fairness Doctrine, I should leave the nonsense you wrote alone?
My point was only that there is a lot of revisionist history out there on both sides.
And as I pointed out with my cites, yours is as bad as anyone’s.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"Quite an efficient market. "

Scares you, no?
 
Written By: It goes on
URL: http://
And as I pointed out with my cites, yours is as bad as anyone’s.
Um, no. Your cites didn’t back up what your were saying. And they were non-responsive to my point, which you misstated.

You made it out as if I was advocating for reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, which I clearly wasn’t. There are lots of problems with the doctrine and reinstating it would be bad policy. But the oft-repeated conservative claims that the doctrine is clearly unconstitution and that it requires "equal time" are rubbish. It never required equal time and it was held to be constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1969.

You can argue, and many have, that that decision was wrongly-decided, but it is still the law. At the very least, the claim that the fairness doctrine is unconstitutional is highly debatable. There is, after all, an enormous difference between Congress regulating the use of public airwaves and Congress regulating the publishing of books. There are only a limited number of airwaves, much fewer than there are people who would like to use them. That creates a rationing problem and a legitimate concern that the medium could be monopolized in a way that disserves the public. These issues just aren’t present in your typical 1st amendment case and they make things more complicated legally.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
So every station except Fox has had a blatant liberal bias for the last 50+ years and the market is just now starting to adjust (but just a little bit). That makes sense. Quite an efficient market.
Come on, AL, you’re smarter than this. Only recently has the number of available news outlets increased by much. Before then, broadcast networks didn’t have to tailor their news to the market, because the market was pretty much captive. People watched network news not because they agreed with the viewpoint, but rather because it was the only game in town (for the most part, there are exceptions).

But now that news can be obtained almost immediately from many different sources with other viewpoints, the number of people watching network news has dropped dramatically.

Will you not concede that a part of the drop is from viewers seeking more conservative views? Or are you just going to blather on with nonsense such as what I quoted?
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
Your cites didn’t back up what your were saying. And they were non-responsive to my point, which you misstated.
Seems I use this word a lot when referring to what your write: nonsense.
You made it out as if I was advocating for reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, which I clearly wasn’t.
No, I didn’t. I simply took what you wrote and presented the facts that countered it. I know that’s tough to take, but then, that’s how it works.

What I wrote had nothing to do with "your position" or lack thereof. In all honesty, I really don’t care what your position on this is. My response had to do with what you said about the doctrine in the comment after your disclaimer, all of which was, here’s that word again, nonsense.
You can argue, and many have, that that decision was wrongly-decided, but it is still the law.
See what I mean? No, AL, it’s not the law, which is why they’re trying to make it the law again.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It wasn’t that way when the Fairness Doctrine was operating, it won’t be that way if it’s reinstated.
Ah, but it could!

I, for one, look forward to seeing a 2-hour block of time committed to skeptics of anthropogenic global warming every time "The Day After Tomorrow" airs.
 
Written By: A.S.
URL: http://
Come on, AL, you’re smarter than this. Only recently has the number of available news outlets increased by much. Before then, broadcast networks didn’t have to tailor their news to the market, because the market was pretty much captive. People watched network news not because they agreed with the viewpoint, but rather because it was the only game in town (for the most part, there are exceptions).
But the newtworks still competed with each other. If all three were so biased, one network could have shifted just a little to the right and cleaned up. Stupid execs.

But now that news can be obtained almost immediately from many different sources with other viewpoints, the number of people watching network news has dropped dramatically.

Yeah, but it’s not like they all switched to Fox News. There are a ton of channels now so you’re not forced to watch news at 6 o’clock if you don’t want to. That’s why audiences are down.

Will you not concede that a part of the drop is from viewers seeking more conservative views? Or are you just going to blather on with nonsense such as what I quoted?

Sure, some people have left the networks for conservative programming at Fox News. But the audience at Fox still pales in comparison to those who watch the networks. And for ever Fox viewer there is someone watches CNN, MSNBC, or PBS, which conservatives claim are just as liberally biased as the networks. So why isn’t the market working? Why is 99% of TV programming still liberally-baised (at least according to conservatives)? Why is the market so inefficient?
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
See what I mean? No, AL, it’s not the law, which is why they’re trying to make it the law again.
Oy, McQ, you’re having trouble reading today. Obviously the fairness doctrine is not currently the law. As was clear from the context, I was referring to First Amendment case law. Under prevailing First Amendment case law, the fairness doctrine is not unconstitutional.

And for the record, McQ, simply repeating over and over again that what I’m saying is "nonsense" is not actually an argument.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
AL, you’re being disingenuous or obtuse. The Fairness Doctrine is going to open up broadcasters to challenges to renewal of their licenses IF they do not present “all points of view.” That is uncertainty, and after 50 or so stations that carry Rush and Sean Hannity are challenged most stations will stop carrying them, because in order to present differing viewpoints is going to require 3 hours of Jesse Jackson, who is a loss leader. So in order to make money and not be in court every time the Nutroots complain they’ll stop running Rush or Sean. It’s not difficult to understand…and as to the idea that PRIOR TO the Fairness Doctrine going away “CONSERVATIVE talk radio" was going just fine, please produce some evidence. Because you’ll note that Rush Limbaugh went nationwide in 1988, “Coincidence or not?”
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Joe,

I’m not saying the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated. And I agree that if it were, many liberal groups would try to challenge the renewal of licenses for stations that air mainly conservative programming. Whether these petitions would be success, though, is another story. Part of the reason the fairness doctrine was stupid is that it was easily complied with by airing something stupid in the middle of the night when no one was listening. It’s an unmanageable, stupid rule that stations were given enormous leeway to interpret and comply with.

But I don’t think its unconstitutional, at least not obviously so. Not all bad policy is unconstitutional policy.

And Limbaugh was already doing well in the Sacramento area before the doctrine was repealed.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
Obviously the fairness doctrine is not currently the law. As was clear from the context, I was referring to First Amendment case law. Under prevailing First Amendment case law, the fairness doctrine is not unconstitutional.
Which is moot, since the Fairness Doctrine is not the law. So what’s your point?

And, given today’s court and the finding in Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241, it isn’t at all clear that it wouldn’t be found unconstitutional this time if it were to become law again.
And for the record, McQ, simply repeating over and over again that what I’m saying is "nonsense" is not actually an argument.
It certainly is when you repeat the same nonsense over and over after it has been exposed for what it is. Call it a short-cut.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Which is moot, since the Fairness Doctrine is not the law. So what’s your point?
I’m sure you understand the meaning of the word "moot," McQ. Individual cases can be mooted, precedents can’t.

Moreover, Miami Herald wasn’t a case about the fairness doctrine. It was a case involving a Florida statute regulating newspapers. The Court distinguished the Red Lion case (which was the one that held the fairness doctrine to be constitutional) by pointing out the obvious difference between newspapers and radio, i.e., the government does not decide who can publish a newspaper, so newspaper publishers cannot be forced to give access to the public.
 
Written By: Anonymous Liberal
URL: http://www.anonymousliberal.com
And Limbaugh was already doing well in the Sacramento area before the doctrine was repealed
Oh, well that proves everything then.

Carry on.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
One of the problems with the fairness doctrine, so called, was in its implementation. Anything to the right of Castro, was considered "conservative".

I don’t even have a faint hope that that situation is not going to reoccur.

Mumble, mumble, grouse, curse, mumble...damn thing wouldn’t even be a consideration...Mumble, balanced government, mumble, mumble.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us

 
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