The Fairness Doctrine.

Today on the POTUS channel of my satellite radio I heard some Pajamas Media guy (link is not to the transcript but the same basic message) go on about The Fairness Doctrine. Now I must admit that I was a bit uninformed about what it was but the gist is that it was a rule that mandated that media must present both sides of controversial subjects in some fair manner; some major Democrats are for reinstating it; Obama says he is against it; the quoted pundits do not believe that he will stand up to the Democrat leaders who want it back or that he will backdoor the same effect by how he will have stations licensed.

So to reduce my ignorance, is the Fairness Doctrine fair or unfair? My bias is that it is a bit past its time.

Does it matter if it is or isn’t? It isn’t being applied nor will it ever need to be. There are channels and oodles of channels one can use to give there side or the other side. If it was being applied Faux Mews would not be in existence.

The Fairness Doctrine only applied to over-the-air broadcasting. Not cable or satellite. It wouldn’t apply to Fox News, which is a cable channel.

In reality, no station was ever disciplined for violating the Fairness Doctrine because of its bias. The one “fairness” case that was resolved against a broadcaster, Red Lion, was about a personal attack on an indvidual rather than overall bias in the station’s programming.

Anyone who thinks reinstating it would somehow get Rush Limbaugh off the air, or at least cause a radio station to put Rachel Maddow on, is dreaming.
It was abolished in 1987 and it only applied to the public airwaves, not cable. Yes, I think that people using the public airwaves should serve the public and present multiple sides of issues. I don’t care about cable.

On the surface it sounds like a good idea, but it didn’t work very well, had unintended consequences, and was motivated by partisan politics.

It was a good idea, in that public broadcast frequencies were/are limited, and that getting license holders to make at least a token effort to get differing views on the air was a positive thing. What’s the evidence institution of the Fairness Doctrine “was motivated by partisan politics”?

Based on my own experience in broadcasting and a reading of history on the subject, I think station owners mainly hated the paperwork that went with the Fairness Doctrine (it was supposed to be maintained in a public file available to anyone who walked into a station), and I don’t recall anyone losing their license over it. If stations limited discussion of controversies on-air, it was mainly to be bland and vanilla and avoid offending anyone, not because of the Fairness Doctrine (it took years before someone found out that politically charged talk radio could earn big ratings).

In an age where there are many new non-over-the-air sources for news and opinion, I think the Fairness Doctrine is outmoded and unnecessary, plus it wouldn’t have any significant effect on broadcast stations, despite the alarmist squawking from devotees of right-wing talk radio.

In what ways did it not work well? Did it have unintended undesireable consequences? It wouldn’t bother me if the Fairness Doctrine had been motivated by the partisan politics of the opposition. Sometimes party politics can result in ideas that are beneficial to all sides.

It’s good to see that the tradition of “the Republicans’ response” or “the Democrats’ response” after a major speech by the opposition has continued even though it is not required by law.

See Some Fairness Doctrine History.

I thought it was fine. Every viewpoint had the opposite side presented,like PBS. It was good to hear the other side. Sometimes they are not as crazy as you think. Sometimes they are. But, knowledge is good.

It’s not “unfair,” just intrusive. I’m glad Obama’s against it because it sounds like the kind of meddling Congress would otherwise go for, similar to the noises they make about passing laws that would restrict the judiciary’s power when an unpopular ruling comes down the pipe.

Saying both sides should be represented is all well and good, but once the government starts telling news outlets what content they can air it becomes a problem. To me, it’s ridiculous that anybody would think about bringing back the Fairness Doctrine when they keep eliminating rules about media ownership.

Well thank you all for helping explain this to me. My first impression seems validated some: a bit unneeded in today’s world of many information sources but of little real consequence if it did exist again. The hyperbole against it seems unfounded and the need for it unsubstantiated. I find it odd however that the Right is so afraid of it. One would think that find it an antidote against the claimed overwhelming left leaning bias of MSM! Aren’t they all about “fair and balanced”?

The First Amendment doesn’t say that speech has to be “Fair and Balanced”, and if you had read the source cited in my post, you would know that the Fairness Doctrine has been used as a weapon against the Right. Many of its modern proponents are liberal Democrats who would like history to repeat itself. Having been defeated in the marketplace, they wish to hobble the opposition.

One of the problems is the assumption that every issue has only two sides.

The biggest unintended consequence was that broadcasters interpreted “fairness” as giving no coverage to an issue at all.

Public affairs programming steered away from any sort of controversy and even something like a telephone call-in show could have callers say pretty much anything they wanted with the host saying nothing (“we took no side on the issue at all – that was our listeners, and we provided an opportunity for the other side to call in, but no one did.”)

I’m sure the Democrats will be all for it, until some issue, like, I dunno, maybe Evolution or Climate Change comes up.

I think it’s basically sour grapes. Limbaugh et al still get the great ratings that the liberal commentaries don’t get.

I remember watching many television editorials in the days when over-the-air broadcasting was the only game in town. They seemed to take great care in only selecting topics and positions that were non-controversial. The only discussions of issues were on the networks’ Sunday morning news discussion programs like Meet the Press and Face the Nation.

While everything you say may well be true, you miss DSeid’s point. Which is: if the MSM has an overwhelming liberal slant (as the Right claims), then any opposing viewpoints presented in the name of “balance” can only be to their benefit.

Note that I’m not expressing a position myself, just clarifying.

I’d make a distinction between slant or bias and an overt expression of political advocacy. If the FCC tried to eliminate bias and ignorance in the broadcast media, they would be setting themselves an impossible task. A broadcaster could be quite biased without doing anything that would trigger a Fairness Doctrine requirement to air an opposing view.

OK, that’s a more nuanced position than I had first thought. But it’s not clear to me that it changes anything of substance. Particularly given the recent claims of “X is in the bag for Obama” (the NYTimes, right?) and such, which are indeed claims of overt political advocacy by the Right against “the Left”.

What unintended consequences?