How would the Fairness Doctrine work now?

Anybody have any GQ info as opposed to IMHO or GD?

Seems like the state of the world (globalization, internet, cable, number of outlets) has changed so much that it can’t work the way it used to… (I’m not even sure how it used to work).

Was it just a “doctrine” that allowed the FCC to enforce their interpretations of fairness?

Would comedy shows (SNL, Daily Show, etc) face the same scrutiny?

Was there/might there be teeth enough to shut something down quickly… or could things get tied up in court?

It only applied to political opinion shows, so comedy wasn’t an issue.

The way it worked was that if you gave time to one candidate (aside from regular news reports), you needed to give equal time to the other candidate. That included all third-party candidates.

The same was required for broadcast opinions.

I doubt it could work nowadays.

Don’t confuse the Fairness Doctrine with Equal Time. The Fairness Doctrine required broadcast TV and radio to provide “fair” coverage to controversial issues. In practice, it encouraged stations to avoid giving any in-depth coverage to controversial issues.

Equal Time means that a station has to provide the same access to all candidates for a given office for a period of 60 days before an election. If Congressman Smith buys $10,000 of commercial time on his local TV station, that station has to give Smith’s opponent the same opportunity to buy commercial time (that’s why here in the wing states, you’ll see McCain and Obama commercials running during the same commercial breaks.) If the station provides free time for Congressman Smith, it has to offer Smith’s opponent free time.

Another provision of Equal Time is that if stations sell time to political candidates they must charge only “the lowest unit rate” for that time. That means a politician who only has enough money to buy a single commercial would pay the same as an advertiser who had negotiated a million dollar contract.

Because of that, a lot of stations hate political advertising. Not only do they have to sell it cheap, but if they sell out their commercial slots, they have to bump higher-paying non-political advertising to make time for Smith and his opponents.

I really doubt that stations really hate this bonanza of advertising sales.

Considering he amount of political advertising filling the airwaves right now, and the fact that most of the $5 billion(!) being spent on this election cycle is going into the pockets of station owners, it seems unlikely that they ‘hate’ it.

I don’t think they really have to bump many other ads – it isn’t like they were really selling out ALL their ad time before this.

Does the Fairness Doctrine specify equal time slots, or can a station run all of Candidate A’s ads in prime time and all of Candidate B’s ads between 11 PM and 3 AM?

Bringing it back is being discussed.

Any idea whether there are specific proposals?

What’s the definition of a “political opinion show” ?

The Fairness Doctrine is a moot point for television because the FCC doesn’t govern cable television, just broadcast television. Few over-the-air networks would be considered to be in violation of the Fairness Doctrine even now.

Radio is a different story. The Fairness Doctrine would drive a lot of radio stations out of business. They have adapted to the conservative talk radio business model, and if those stations are forced to carry programs like those on Air America people will tune out, costing them considerable advertising revenue and possibly putting them under.

There is no reason to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. All it will do is cost people money, and it will not cause a Limbaugh fan to listen to Randi Rhodes. It’s funny that the people pushing for this are Democrats, and they would be aghast if the same limits were placed on the blogosphere.

There is no doubt that talk radio is overrun with right wingers.

I would prefer the Democrats do what the Republicans have (apparantly) done and begin an effort to take back the radio airwaves from the right wingers by finding articulate and thoughtful persons willing to host radio shows. I think Republican think-tankers did this many years ago.

I would much prefer to have a choice of political leaning talk shows that covered the whole spectrum than only have a menu of right wingers who claim to be moderates. They seem to operate on the idea that if you say it often enough and loud enough, it will become ‘the truth’.

I would hate to see this legislated in any way- I don’t think that is the proper way to get the airwaves back.

Only on AM. On FM, the only large-scale national talk radio is NPR and I don’t think anyone could seriously accuse them of being in the Limbaugh/O’Reilly spin zone.

The larger question is, “Does it matter?” The median age for TV viewers is 50. Does talk radio’s audience skew any younger? Is this a problem we’ll age out of?

Couple points…

  1. I believe there has been talk of applying a reinstituted FD to cable.

  2. How about a show like The View on over the air? Clearly leftward and no rightward counterpart.

What justification might there be for applying a Federal fairness doctrine to cable? I’m not being obstreperous here: The logic behind FCC regulation of broadcast is that it inevitably crosses state lines, and the broadcast spectrum constitutes “property” in the same broad sense that the right to use river water does – there’s a limited supply, so government enters the fray as a disinterested referee granting property access evenhandedly.

On the other hand, cable is by definition a local operation – local governments or perhaps sometimes state agencies grant franchises to operate a cable-system monopoly in a given location. While I don’t know for sure, I believe the only Federal connection with this (other than the broad requirements that businesses be conducted in a manner that comports with relevant Federal laws, like minimum wage and equal protection) is a requirement that cable services must provide access to broadcast stations serving their area.

I have DirecTV, so when I am watching Skinemax, that station has certainly travelled outside this state and country (from outer space) and is using the public airwaves to get to my satellite dish.

I think that the Fairness Doctrine, especially if applied to cable channels, would certainly be against the 1st amendment, but trying to limit the FCC because of the interstate commerce clause? I think not…

Those airwaves are not “public” airwaves. The frequency spectrum is allotted by the FCC, and while they technically can claim ownership of said frequencies they have never done so. They have always claimed a public interest in channels 2-69, however.

Cable/satellite is not regulated for one big reason: in order to get it you have to voluntarily enter into a contract to receive it, so you know what you are getting into when you introduce it into your home. There is no such agreement with over-the-air television, and in addition to that you have the concept that over-the-air television has a civic purpose in the event of emergencies and the like.

Imagine if they applied Fairness Doctrine to cable networks. Yeah, it might put the boots to Fox, but it will also affect MSNBC and CNN and may have further reaching effects on other networks’ programming that may not be so blatant but nevertheless draws complaints. Should we increase the size and power of the FCC for the sole purpose of homogenizing television programming? The very idea of that is ridiculous.