Updating fairness doctrine


The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters.

Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials.

The abolition of The Fairness Doctrine had many opponents but they lost to the Reagan Revolution anti-regulatory extremists. Fowler, sneered at the principle that broadcasters bore special responsibilities to ensure democratic discourse. "The perception of broadcasters as community trustees should be replaced by a view of broadcasters as marketplace participants." The defectors were particularly worried about the passive indifference of the American public who never seemed to notice that they'd lost control of a public asset: the airwaves. In California where I worked, at KTVU-TV (Oakland-San Francisco), my job in the Community Affairs Department was to ascertain community leaders about our most pressing issues and then develop programming to explain them in a responsible manner.

Ascertainments began in Oakland, spread to the greater Bay Area and then to the state as a whole.

The specific case on which the commission ruled today involved a complaint against the Meredith Corporation, owner of WTVH-TV in Syracuse, which broadcast a series of advertisements advocating construction of the Niagara Mohawk Power Company's Nine Mile 2 nuclear power plant near Oswego in upstate New York.

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was β€” in the Commission's view β€” honest, equitable, and balanced.

''We seek to extend to the electronic press the same First Amendment guarantees that the print media have enjoyed since our country's inception,'' said the new chairman of the F. The justification for applying the doctrine to broadcasting was that in contrast to the potentially infinite number of newspapers and magazines, there were a limited number of frequencies and channels and thus a limited number of broadcast outlets. Nor does it deal with such other commission rules as the one requiring programming tailored to meet local needs as a condition for holding a license.

But various civil rights, consumer and other advocacy groups expressed dismay. ] Several members of Congress vowed to renew their efforts to enact the doctrine into law, a drive that failed in June when President Reagan vetoed such legislation. argued exactly the opposite, contending that the threat of penalties that could include loss of license for violating the doctrine had tended to make broadcasters timid and programming bland. Congress made the equal time rule law in 1959; the fairness doctrine was written in response to that legislation. Killory suggested that the demise of the fairness doctrine did appear to threaten two other rules, one governing personal attacks and another political editorials.

The legal standing of those rules is now ''questionable,'' Ms.

Killory said, because they may be deemed to derive from the fairness doctrine itself.

Is what they are saying just scare tactics or does their argument have legs?

Basically they are saying that the Fairness Doctrine will require equal time for both right and left points of view and will possibly shut down conservative talk radio.

The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented.

The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.

I was the TV journalist who worked most with The League, wrestling with facts and trying our best to be fair and balanced in 30 minute documentaries that can best be described as information intensive.

4β€” The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously today to abolish its fairness doctrine on the ground that it unconstitutionally restricts the free-speech rights of broadcast journalists. In addition to news reports, it can apply to advocacy advertising, as it did in the case that led to today's ruling. C.'s decision does not affect the equal time rule, which deals solely with the air time alloted to competing Federal political candidates.

For all the heated discussion of the fairness doctrine, it’s worth noting that there was never an official document laying it out.

Its general principles developed beginning in the 1930s and 1940s; it was more or less described by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949, and it continued evolving through FCC actions and court decisions.

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