Fair­ness Doc­trine death watch

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans want the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (FCC) to si­lence the Fair­ness Doc­trine once and for all. Al­though the pol­icy that gave gov­ern­ment the power to reg­u­late po­lit­i­cal speech in ra­dio and TV broad­casts was dropped by Pres­i­dent Rea­gan’s FCC, nos­tal­gic left­ists pe­ri­od­i­cally seek to re­vive the mea­sure as a means of muz­zling con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio.

The Fair­ness Doc­trine, es­tab­lished in 1949, gave the FCC the power to mon­i­tor broad­cast­ers and then force them to air op­pos­ing viewpoints to con­tro­ver­sial po­lit­i­cal is­sues when the feds de­ter­mined a po­lit­i­cal bias in re­port­ing. The rule cre­ated bland con­tent as broad­cast­ers sought to avoid get­ting into trou­ble. Its 1987 demise kicked off the re­vival of talk ra­dio.

FCC Com­mis­sioner Robert M. McDow­ell no­ticed that the Fair­ness Doc­trine was still a part of the Code of Fed­eral Reg­u­la­tions while re­search­ing a speech on ex­ces­sive gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions.

“We thought that this mon­ster’s dead and stinking corpse was left to rot in a gov­ern­ment grave­yard,” the Repub­li­can com­mis­sioner said on May 19. “In­stead, it ap­pears that the com­mis­sion merely opted not to en­force the rule. Its words still de­file the pages of the CFR, and we should erase it with a re­peal or­der im­me­di­ately.”

Only FCC Chair­man Julius Gena- chowski has the power to place re­peal onto the agenda, so House En­ergy and Com­merce Chair­man Fred Upon, Michi­gan Repub­li­can, and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Tech­nol­ogy Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Greg Walden, Ore­gon Repub­li­can, sent a letter ask­ing him to strike the free-speech-vi­o­lat­ing rule.

“The rules are out­dated, un­nec­es­sary and need­lessly en­dan­ger our sa­cred free­doms of speech and the press,” Mr. Up­ton told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“The FCC has al­ready de­cided not to en­force the Fair­ness Doc­trine, so it’s time to re­move this dan­ger­ous pol­icy from the rule­books once and for all.”

Un­less the Fair­ness Doc­trine is deleted, there is a chance that a hard-left ad­min­is­tra­tion with lit­tle re­spect for the law could bring it back to life.

The move would have the sup­port of con­gres­sional Demo­cratic lead­ers like House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Louise Slaugh­ter and Sens. Dick Durbin, John Kerry and Dianne Fe­in­stein, all of whom have been cheer­lead­ers for re­in­stat­ing Big Brother’s con­trol over broad­cast me­dia con­tent.

Since the left can’t com­pete with con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio on free-mar­ket terms, it nat­u­rally seeks gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion to force lib­eral shows onto the air­waves.

The Fair­ness Doc­trine is an ob­so­lete relic from a time of lim­ited me­dia op­tions. Mr. Ge­na­chowski ought to have no prob­lem ini­ti­at­ing a pro­ceed­ing to elim­i­nate it once and for all.

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