Fans of free expression should hit up a piece in Human Events, by our very own John Berlau, on those misguided souls who are intent on bringing back the “Fairness Doctrine” to broadcast TV and radio. For anyone who wasn’t following FCC regulations before 1987 (when it was eliminated), here are the basics:
The Fairness Doctrine, initiated by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949, mandated that radio and television stations “provide a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints” on “vitally important controversial issues.” But since there are contrasting views as to what’s “fair,” broadcast stations were left with a few unpleasant options. They could a) provide equal time to overtly liberal and overtly conservative opinions, regardless of the advertising dollars they draw b) be deluged with demands for free response time by aggrieved listeners, or c) shy away from addressing controversial issues. That last option was the one often chosen. The Fairness Doctrine was decried across the political spectrum—by free marketeers and by genuine free-speech liberals such as CBS News president Fred Friendly—for its chilling effects on discussion of issues.
Some might argue that the Fairness Doctrine made some sense in a world with only three television channels, but especially given the dizzying proliferation of news and entertainment options today, re-implementing it is especially daft.