Is it time to bring the Fairness Doctrine back?

The Fairness Doctrine basically says, “…required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission’s view, honest, equitable and balanced.” (cite is the Wiki link just provided)

FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler repealed the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and President Reagan helped keep it that way by vetoing an attempt to make it law (later there was another attempt to make it law and it was vetoed by President Bush Sr.). Another attempt was made by congress in 2005 but it never got out of committee.

Those opposition to the Fairness Doctrine runs along the lines of, “…an attack on First Amendment rights and property rights. Editorials in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times have said that Democratic attempts to bring back the Fairness Doctrine have been made largely in response to and contempt for the successes of conservative talk radio.” (cite is Wiki link above)

Recently Canada stymied an effort to allow what Canadians call “FOX News North” when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was thwarted in repealing Canada’s law that forbids lying in broadcast news. (cite)

I doubt any of us would call Canada a free speech hating country or repressive against its people. The rule seems to work for them and indeed the rule seemed to work fine in the US while it was active.

Is there a good reason to allow media organizations to lie?

Not sure it matters much anymore. Most of the Fox News type stuff is not broadcast in the the traditional sense anyway.

Even if you could do it, I wouldn’t be in favor. It seems

There are many good reasons to allow everyone to say what they wish. There may be consequences for defamation, etc, but free people should be free as much as possible. I hate the guys and gals at Fox as much as anyone, but I wouldn’t feel any better if they were forced to live up to the government’s standard of “balance and fairness.” In my view, the first amendment shouldn’t allow the government that kind of oversight of content.

For what feels like the 100th time, no.

Do you want to give Congress or FCC appointees that much influence over the content of the news media, including the power to decide who’s lying and who is being unfair, and punish them accordingly?

The solution to speech you do not like is more speech, not censorship. The government should not be making decisions based on the content of speech.

There are already libel and slander laws dealing with malicious lies.

Also, a self-imposed fairness doctrine is what is giving media time to such nonsense as anti-evolutionists, climate-change-deniers, anti-vaxxers, etc. The media shows “both sides of the story” when one side is complete ignorance. I wish the media would show more bias in those cases, not less.

No. The fairness doctrine had, as its effect, the function of chilling poltical speech on the airwaves.

Actually, it didn’t work all that well. The typical small broadcaster response to the Fairness Doctrine was to ignore controversial issues entirely.

And if you ask my local radio station why it gives Rush Limbaugh three hours a day to spout off on whatever, their response is that Rush isn’t on for the other 21 hours a day, that most of that 21 hours is taken up with phone-in shows and that you’re welcome to call in and give your own opinion.

Who could be against “fairness”? :rolleyes:

Can’t add much to what has been said already. I’m comfortable deciding for myself what I’ll watch or read, and don’t need Obama or Bush telling me what I can or cannot watch or read.

Lying is a binary problem. You are or you aren’t.

Deciding which is which should not be hard. If it is vague (e.g. “lowering taxes increases government revenue”) then that should not be punished or even bothered with.

Misreporting what actually happened is another matter.

Apparently the US is fine stopping things they find morally bad (swearing, nudity). Why isn’t that chilling on free speech?

Could someone please point to some of the horrible things that happened because of the Fairness Doctrine back when it was still in effect?

So, the Vietnam War was not covered?

Civil Rights was not covered?

Non-controversial issues like that?

Can you point to any instance where the public good was not served because the Fairness Doctrine prevented discussion of topical issues?

Why does it have to be horrible? Lots of things that are unconstitutional aren’t “horrible”. The constitution says no laws can be made abridging free speech.


Forget overtly “horrible” things then.

Can you cite instances where speech was chilled and the public did not get the discussion on issues it deserved because the Fairness Doctrine steered broadcasters away from airing the important issue of the day?

You didn’t respond to the issue here: do you want to empower Congress or presidential appointees the FCC to care of this? What you would see, I suspect, is that when Democrats have a majority of Congress or on the FCC, you’d get more investigations of Fox News and Rush, and when they’re controlled by Republicans, you get more punishment of NPR. Are you sure you want to go down this road? Reread the quote in the OP and you’ll see it’s not just about lying. It also says the coverage should be balanced and equitable, which is much tougher to define.

It is, and I dislike it. I think bleeping curse words is brain damaged, and when the FCC decided it would hand out big fines to networks who broadcast profanity, I thought that was even dumber.

I don’t know about John Mace, but I find the existing speech regulations to be chilling. And I say that as someone who would never listen to Howard Stern because of its obscene content. The government should not be regulating speech.

That’s your problem, and explains why you are mistaken here.

So instead we should hand that power to corporate executives? The media isn’t politically neutral; it is run by wealthy, mostly right wing people and promotes their agenda.

Why is corporate censorship OK then, if government censorship is bad?

That IS bias, right wing bias. It isn’t a “self-imposed fairness doctrine”, it is the desire of the people who run those media organizations to promote right wing issues and beliefs.

Yes I’d be fine with that.

The news media should be held to a higher standard. There is a public trust at work when it comes to the news media. You can still have your partisan blog if you want.

I am content to have NPR square off against FOX and defend the accuracy of its reporting. Not worried at all on that count.

This is not about having a slant. This is about patent falsehoods and overtly misleading the public.

How to do you determine the difference between intentional lying and honest mistakes? By the time the government could decide, most issues would be long past.

The current policy of print publications publishing corrections is sufficient for them, and media watchdog sites do a fair job of covering broadcast and internet sources.

Blatant lies are quickly reported on by other members of the media. If a network develops a reputation for distorting the truth, either intentionally or not, their credibility will be decided by the public.

The best arbiter of ‘fairness’ is more speech, not censorship, like Pleonast stated above.

As far as fines for nudity and swearing on broadcast media, an argument can be made that they are using a public resource and the public has a right to determine what is allowed. The public is the publisher in a sense. Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner can decide what they want to publish in their magazines. The public has the right to decide for theirs. And that can be gauged by public outcries over ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ or f-bombs. Another decade, I doubt the switchboards will light up as much.

Corporate executives (even scumbags like Roger Ailes) are citizens with rights, and people always have the power to vote with their remote controls and wallets.

I didn’t say it was. (I didn’t say it wasn’t, but broad generalizations about the media from the left and the right are both way off base most of the time.) I said I don’t want Congress and the FCC to get involved with it on the grounds they are making it politically neutral because they won’t. They’ll manipulate the rules to their advantage of their respective parties. Do you think that would improveme things?

Pleonast is right. And a renewed Fairness Doctrine would be a great excuse for working that kind of bias into more stories.

For me, the issue requires digging one layer deeper than “all speech should be free”.

My issue is - what is “equitable and balanced”? Who decides? Is it balanced to give 10 minutes to a KKK member, and 10 minutes to Jesse Jackson? Perhaps. What about 10 minutes to a KKK member, and 10 minutes to a Fillipino cross-dressing pole dancer? Or 10 minutes to Jesse Jackson, and 10 minutes to Linday Lohan? I could go on…

A big issue to me about our current media environment is the editorial narrowmindedness that pre-selects the 2 sides (and only 2) of any issue. I do not see expanding that editorial decision making to the government to be solving anything.