Tue
Aug 23 2011
09:11 am

Introduced in 1949, the Fairness Doctrine held that broadcasters should present controversial issues in an honest and balanced manner. The Fairness Doctrine is not about equal time, but about presenting differing viewpoints. While the FCC had the right to enforce the Fairness Doctrine, SCOTUS ruled that they were not obligated to do so.

And now, the Fairness Doctrine is done. Gone. Well, once it's published in the Federal Register it will be gone.



continued...

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told lawmakers in June that the agency planned to dump the rule as part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to eliminate outdated and unneeded regulations. The agency’s media bureau said Monday that it will eliminate 83 rules including the Fairness Doctrine.

Now, with the increased screeching from the right, and the nuttiest of the wingnuttiest, I don't see the Fairness Doctrine as being outdated or unneeded. In fact, I think it's needed, in conjunction with the equal time rule, more than ever these days.

As for broadcasters presenting differing viewpoints, here is how the Fairness Doctrine worked:

Typically, when an individual or citizens group complained to a station about imbalance, the station would set aside time for an on-air response for the omitted perspective: “Reasonable opportunity for presentation of opposing points of view,” was the relevant phrase. If a station disagreed with the complaint, feeling that an adequate range of views had already been presented, the decision would be appealed to the FCC for a judgment.

According to Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of Media Access Project, scheduling response time was based on time of day, frequency and duration of the original perspective. “If one view received a lot of coverage in primetime,” Schwartzman told Extra!, “then at least some response time would have to be in primetime. Likewise if one side received many short spots or really long spots.” But the remedy did not amount to equal time; the ratio of airtime between the original perspective and the response “could be as much as five to one,” said Schwartzman.

So, how will this effect us? Think about the whole Intelligent Design/Creationism vs Evolution taught in schools issue. If our local news wants to promote Creationism taught in schools and that evolution is a "theory" they no longer have to set aside any time to show a response from the evolution side, even if the response was a short paragraph or statement.

Who loses in the end? The people. Think about it for a second. Who owns most of the media, and do you really think they want to give a chance to differing opinions?

Average Guy's picture

Who loses in the end? The

Who loses in the end? The people. Think about it for a second. Who owns most of the media, and do you really think they want to give a chance to differing opinions?

Yes, corporations own the media and their goal is profit. When they find a niche that brings in the most profit, any differing opinions that threaten that niche will likely not get equal time.

Was Air America’s goal not profit? Were they not trying to fill a niche? So what was the problem?

The people. Specifically Democrats.

Nobody is preventing the 24/7 rebuttal to Rush, Hannity and the rest of the right wing nut jobs. The war of ideas won’t be won from the sidelines.

R. Neal's picture

Was Air America’s goal not

Was Air America’s goal not profit? Were they not trying to fill a niche? So what was the problem?

Don't know, but most of the on-air personalities are still on the air via syndication (not that you'd know it around here), two got prime-time talk shows on MSNBC, and one got elected to the United States Senate.

Average Guy's picture

As Tina would say; What's gov got to do with it?

And government had nothing to do with any of it. (minus Franken of course)

As someone who doesn’t care for the religious right always running to our government to impose their dogma on sexuality, marriage and “intelligent” design – I feel the same toward the left.

If ones ideas are popular and can create a following, sell them on the open market. It’s not our government’s responsibility to promote the Democrats message.

Stick's picture

First off, while we often

First off, while we often forget this, it is not the government promoting any one message. The idea is that society is deciding what the ground rules are for political discourse in media. If you look at journalism prior to the fairness doctrine, it looks a lot like what we have today. Crazy! If you look at journalism during the era of the fairness doctrine, it looks very different than what we have today. It was much more thoughtful, measured and grounded in concrete reality. By no means perfect... but far better than what we're currently enjoying.

Second, the idea that "the market" should decide what is worthy is certainly the dominant ideology of the day. However, what if "the market" leads to ever more extreme ideologists trying to one up each other in order to gain market share? What if the market brings us a news business model that favors talking heads yelling at each other on the TeeVee and erodes actual reporting and investigative journalism? What if the nature of political discourse becomes increasingly detached from any existing social reality and leads to political dysfunction?

At some point in our history, we let "the market" replace our "democracy" as the arbitrator of the common good. Last I checked that's not one of the founding principles of the constitution.

WhitesCreek's picture

One cannot create a following

One cannot create a following for ideas if those ideas are purposefully kept off the airwaves, which belong to the people theoretically. A number of successful progressive shows have been removed: Phil Donahue, Keith Olbermann, Cenk Uyger, and more. The idea of equating free speech with money is horrendous. Money will not pay for truth, but flows freely for false messaging. This is why Rush et al survive.

CE Petro's picture

What WhitesCreek said. How

What WhitesCreek said.

How many people get their news from the airwaves? Not everyone has access to the internet, or Cirrus, or, or, or...
Which means, if they don't hear differing views, how are they supposed to make an intelligent decision on the particular issue?

So, lets take an issue closer to home -- the Hillside/Ridgetop. How many reports in the KNS, or local TV news have focused on those that oppose this issue, and include only short statements of those that are standing up for the protection?

Now imagine, all of the news items focusing on those opposed to the issue, with no statements from those that stand up for it? This is what you get without the Fairness Doctrine. It was put in place because of the skewed political reporting more than 60 years ago.

So, I ask you, why is it that these massive corporations are taking us BACKWARDS?

Mark Harmon's picture

A Consistent First Amendment Argument

The linked article wrongly states the Fairness Doctrine was an equal time rule. It never was that. It hasn't been around since 1987, and even then only required some form of editorial reply (eg. callers to a radio program) when an editorial is given (news programming exempted). It also had a rather vague call for some coverage of controversial issues.

I've rather consistently argued that I'd be happy to drop it entirely in the name of the First Amendment if that accompanied another rule to expand the number of competing voices, a one-to-a-customer rule on over-the-public-airwaves broadcast licenses.

Average Guy's picture

The idea is that society is

The idea is that society is deciding what the ground rules are for political discourse in media.

That’s why government set aside the six o’clock hour. The internet and 24hr news have made the “news hour” irrelevant. To control any of it now would entail controlling all of it.

Second, the idea that "the market" should decide what is worthy is certainly the dominant ideology of the day. However, what if "the market" leads to ever more extreme ideologists trying to one up each other in order to gain market share? What if the market brings us a news business model that favors talking heads yelling at each other on the TeeVee and erodes actual reporting and investigative journalism? What if the nature of political discourse becomes increasingly detached from any existing social reality and leads to political dysfunction?

You don’t really think you’re describing the future and not the present do you? Ninety percent of what’s promoted as “news” today belongs on the grocery store checkout isle with the rest of the tabloids.

A number of successful progressive shows have been removed: Phil Donahue, Keith Olbermann, Cenk Uyger, and more.

Removed by the government or MSNBC? If consumer purchasing had increased for the products advertised on Olbermann’s show and if picketers in front of 30 Rock were there to keep him – he’d still be there.

So, I ask you, why is it that these massive corporations are taking us BACKWARDS?

Profit, there’s no other reason for corporations to exist. Same goes for Air America. Because while it was operating, I’m sure many on the right would ask the exact same question as yours above. They do about MSNBC anyway.

For an example, let’s put the fairness doctrine under the control of the Republican congress. Say they're challenged to get a sampling of 1,000 scientists on the matter creation. Do you really think the reps in the House aren’t going to find as many “intelligent design” advocates as they can? Say they find 250 credentialed, university educated, religious scientists who’ve squeezed the irrational into their otherwise sound minds.

Would you advocate the government forcing media to give 25% worth of coverage to intelligent design when creation is discussed?

Stick's picture

You don’t really think you’re

You don’t really think you’re describing the future and not the present do you?

Of course not...

To control any of it now would entail controlling all of it.

Nice dodge... Who is talking about control?

Average Guy's picture

How does it happen if no one controls it?

Should The Nation be forced to set aside space for Weekly Standard columns? And while blogs aren’t considered traditional “news”, they often drive it. Should Knoxviews set aside space for Hornbeck posts? Can we bring back the digit for a rebuttal to any and all replies?

Where exactly does fairness begin and end and whom do you suggest determine what’s “fair”?

LOL's picture

This is so great!

I guess that when you are being ignored by the paying public, you have to whine!

If an idea has merit, maybe someone would listen!

I just love watching this!

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