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Debate: Fairness Doctrine

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*[http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0212-03.htm Steve Rendall. "How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back". Common Dreams. 12 Feb. 2005] *[http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0212-03.htm Steve Rendall. "How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back". Common Dreams. 12 Feb. 2005]
 +*[http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=38008 Pete Winn. "Democratic Senator Tells Conservative Radio Station He’d Re-impose Fairness Doctrine--on Them". CNS News. 28. Oct. 2008]
 +*[http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=27185 John Gizzi. "Pelosi Supports 'Fairness Doctrine'". 25 June 2005]
 +*[http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6456031.html John Eggerton. "Kerry Wants Fairness Doctrine Reimposed". Broadcasting & Cable. 27 June 2007]
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Revision as of 23:25, 12 November 2008

Should the Fairness Doctrine be Reinstated?

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

Legislation currently is before Congress that would reinstate a federal communications policy known as the "fairness doctrine." The legislation, entitled the "Fairness in Broadcasting Act of 1993," is sponsored in the Senate (S. 333) by Ernest Hollings, the South Carolina Democrat, and in the House (H.R. 1985) by Bill Hefner, the North Carolina Democrat. It would codify a 1949 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation that once required broadcasters to "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance." The fairness doctrine was overturned by the FCC in 1987.

Does the Fairness Doctrine breach the First Amendment?

Yes

  • Fairness Doctrine ensures diverse viewpoints on scarce frequencies U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969. - "A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a...frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others.... It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount."
Rep. Luther Johnson (D.-Texas), in the debate that preceded the Radio Act of 1927. 16 Jan. 2003 - "American thought and American politics will be largely at the mercy of those who operate these stations, for publicity is the most powerful weapon that can be wielded in a republic. And when such a weapon is placed in the hands of one person, or a single selfish group is permitted to either tacitly or otherwise acquire ownership or dominate these broadcasting stations throughout the country, then woe be to those who dare to differ with them. It will be impossible to compete with them in reaching the ears of the American people."[1]
  • Fairness Doctrine helps advance Free Speech values. Supreme Court Justice Byron White wrote: “There is no sanctuary in the First Amendment for unlimited private censorship operating in a medium not open to all.”
In a Washington Post column (1/31/94), the Media Access Project (MAP), a telecommunications law firm that supports the Fairness Doctrine, addressed the First Amendment issue: "The Supreme Court unanimously found [the Fairness Doctrine] advances First Amendment values. It safeguards the public’s right to be informed on issues affecting our democracy, while also balancing broadcasters’ rights to the broadest possible editorial discretion."


No

Governor Mario Cuomo who also opposed the Doctrine pointing out - "Of course there are limits to liberty and lines to be drawn … But curtailing First Amendment rights should be allowed only when the need is so clear and convincing as to overwhelm with reasonableness the arguments in opposition. And the case for government intrusion, for the Fairness Doctrine, is certainly less than compelling at its very best."[2]
  • Fairness Doctrine opens the door to government abuse Adam Thierer. "Why the Fairness Doctrine is Anything But Fair". Heritage Foundation. 29 Oct. 1993 - "FCC regulators would arbitrarily determine what "fair access" is, and who is entitled to it, through selective enforcement. This, of course, puts immense power into the hands of federal regulators. And in fact, the fairness doctrine was used by both the Kennedy and Nixon Administrations to limit political opposition. Telecommunications scholar Thomas W. Hazlett notes that under the Nixon Administration, "License harassment of stations considered unfriendly to the Administration became a regular item on the agenda at White House policy meetings." (Thomas W. Hazlett, "The Fairness Doctrine and the First Amendment," The Public Interest, Summer 1989, p. 105.) As one former Kennedy Administration official, Bill Ruder, has said, "We had a massive strategy to use the fairness doctrine to challenge and harass the right-wing broadcasters, and hope the challenge would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue." (Tony Snow, "Return of the Fairness Demon," The Washington Times, September 5, 1993, p. B3.)"


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Pro/con sources

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