The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

15 January 2007

Congressional Democrats, Fairness Doctrine, FCC, Rush Limbaugh


Dems Look To Reinstate Fairness Doctrine

Don't look now, but one of the first items of business for congressional Democrats, now in the majority, is to reinstate the free- speech stifling Fairness Doctrine. Once used in an attempt to achieve "balance" on the airwaves, the policy remained in force until the 1980s.

Its Reagan- era repeal, of course, paved the way for talk radio as we know it today. But now, according to AllAccess, the so- called "hush Rush" law could once again rear its ugly head:

Kucinich: Congress Will Consider Bringing Back Fairness Doctrine

Too little quality entertainment, too many people eating bugs on reality TV. Too little local and regional music, too much brain-numbing national play-lists.

At the "Conference for Media Reform" in MEMPHIS FRIDAY, Rep. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), making a surprise appearance, said that in his new capacity as Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he would hold hearings on media ownership and the restoration of the Fairness Doctrine.

"We know the media has become the servant of a very narrow corporate agenda," KUCINICH said, adding that "the entire domestic agenda has been ignored while the focus has been on the acceleration of wealth upwards." "We are now in a position to move a progressive agenda to where it is visible," the OHIO Congressman and Presidential candidate said.

What exactly was the Fairness Doctrine? Here's a great resource:

The policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission that became known as the "Fairness Doctrine" is an attempt to ensure that all coverage of controversial issues by a broadcast station be balanced and fair. The FCC took the view, in 1949, that station licensees were "public trustees," and as such had an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance.

The Commission later held that stations were also obligated to actively seek out issues of importance to their community and air programming that addressed those issues. With the deregulation sweep of the Reagan Administration during the 1980s, the Commission dissolved the fairness doctrine.

This doctrine grew out of concern that because of the large number of applications for radio station being submitted and the limited number of frequencies available, broadcasters should make sure they did not use their stations simply as advocates with a singular perspective. Rather, they must allow all points of view. That requirement was to be enforced by FCC mandate.

From the early 1940s, the FCC had established the "Mayflower Doctrine," which prohibited editorializing by stations. But that absolute ban softened somewhat by the end of the decade, allowing editorializing only if other points of view were aired, balancing that of the station's. During these years, the FCC had established dicta and case law guiding the operation of the doctrine.

Once the policy was repealed, of course, the modern era of talk was unleashed, with Rush Limbaugh leading the charge. That's why subsequent attempts at reinstating it became known as "hush Rush" efforts.

So far, what Kucinich and his Democrat cohorts have failed to explain is how they intend to preserve liberal talk radio while destroying Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others on the right.

Won't it put Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes and the other libtalkers out of business just as quickly?

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    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 16 January, 2007 00:32  

  • Won't it put Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes and the other libtalkers out of business just as quickly?

    Yeah that will be the reason they fail. LOL

    The “fairness doc” will never be passed just wishful thinking by the left. They can’t stop the Rush.

    By Blogger pf1, at 16 January, 2007 00:39  

  • Why stop with a Fairness Doctrine for broadcasting? There are hundreds of radio and TV choices now thanks to cable and satellite. But there are a limited number of newspapers and magazines in the country. A Fairness Doctrine would make more sense in that area. The New York Times would have to give equal time to every agenda driven story and editorial. And if its not about limited access, why not require every blog or internet message board to have a Fairness Doctrine? Then the Daily Kos and Huffington Post would be required by law to seek out and to give equal space to opposing views.
    The Fairness Doctrine was never about fairness. And it was not about the public owning the airwaves and broadcasters received a license to broadcast. Every business in the country has to receive a business license to operate.
    It was about control.

    By Blogger Will Hansen, at 16 January, 2007 02:03  

  • Will,

    I do not support the idea of a Fairness Doctrine, but you should concede that there is a difference between privately-held/published/distributed newspapers or magazines (or any political persuasion) and the public airwaves. For example, you can use obscenity in a magazine, but not on radio. This also is the difference between a broadcast network and a cable network.

    By Blogger Justin, at 16 January, 2007 08:09  

  • I fugured hash and the Minister of Poop would rejoice, but now put this in your batblind craniume, the right will sue to block this muzzling of their voices. The right will then force leftie stations and NPR to balance under the "fairness doctrine". You will reap the muzzling of the left.

    By Blogger PCD, at 16 January, 2007 08:18  

  • I'm fine with a disclaimer law, before each Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, Ingrham break, there should be a disclaimer

    "the opinions expressed on this program are not that of the host but rather the Republican party, everything you hear are White House talking points disguised as opinion talk radio".
    Fair enough?

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 16 January, 2007 09:12  

  • the opinions expressed on this program are not that of the host but rather the Republican party, everything you hear are White House talking points disguised as opinion talk radio".

    Fine with me! Rush and the others can have it said with chipmunk voices or spooky music and have a lot of fun with it.

    By Blogger Chromium, at 16 January, 2007 09:49  

  • in my opinion, the idea behind the Fairness Doctrine is that people aren't intelligent enough to listen to the other side for themselves, or figure out when they are being fed talking points from one side or the other. Unfortunately, that is the truth. people who watch Fox actually believe that it is fair and balanced, but if you look at any of the research done, the majority of their newscasts (even just the reporting) are highly slanted to the right. they also paint democrats in a negative light much, much more often than they do republicans. however, since they use the handle "fair and balanced" people actually believe it. yes, the public is ignorant.

    however, the fairness doctrine is a double-edged sword that will swiftly kill the few liberal programs out there. not because it infringes on what people can say - there is absolutely no stifling of free speech or infringement on the first amendment, as anyone who has studied law will tell you - but it will change who they speak with about issues. they won't be able to parade their cheerleaders on the show anymore and have a big love-fest, they will have to talk to someone that actually disagrees with them. that would really make for much more interesting programming on both sides.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 16 January, 2007 10:15  

  • What we will get is NPR all the time with a "Fairness Doctrine". That was talk radio pre-1987. It was liberal and stilted. YOu had a liberal talking or multiple liberals to one Conservative who was continually shorted on "Equal Time".

    With the "Fairness Doctrine", the libs, especially the Minister of Poop, are admitting they are losing in the arena of ideas and can do nothing to win short of veiled censorship.

    By Blogger PCD, at 16 January, 2007 11:03  

  • Oh, what do about programs like The Minister of Poop's? Do we get to write their disclaimer? How does, "Angry white liberals who haven't been taken seriously are on the air demanding you take their loonacy seriously and ignore any other viewpoint." I think that's fair.

    By Blogger PCD, at 16 January, 2007 11:06  

  • What will the liberals do when the conservatives go after the MSM and use the Fairness Doctrine? It will tie things up in court forever.

    The Democrats should do as Mike and Mike say, "Just shut up!!!"

    By Blogger tradersmith, at 16 January, 2007 11:13  

  • See PCD , we don't blindly worship the letter "D". The hosts I say should have the disclaimer are propagandists, we are satirists, who speak the truth by way of satire. We don't sit in the White House with Democratic leadership, we don't influence millions of un-informed listeners, like the drug addled pig man does either. We have a core base of podcasters and live listeners who get what we do. No we do not need a dis-claimer, the propagandists do. The freaks who take "R" over country do.

    cluelesstrader Smith

    The media is not liberal, you are totally fucking brainwashed, if you think this way. Basd news, the flunkies on AM radio brainwashed you.

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 16 January, 2007 11:24  

  • Can you imagine the fun at Dead Air America if, because of the fairness doctrine, Bob Grant comes out of retirment and lands a show with Dead Air America?

    It might just save their ratings.

    By Blogger --- bjd, at 16 January, 2007 12:43  

  • Misister of Poo,

    I see you squirming. You don't want the Fairness Doctrine applied to you, but you are foaming at the mouth to apply it to others.

    Sure puts you into prospective, a hypocritical propagandist.

    By Blogger PCD, at 16 January, 2007 13:11  

  • I see you squirming

    hysterical, Im not even calling for the fairness doctrine, but I welcome it, you con sissy freaks of nature fear it, because when both sides are side by side 90% of America goes to the left. You desperatly need an illusion of hakf truths and mis-information created bty radical right wing radio. I welcome right wingers to debate, AAR would be great with right wingers on as well, every day they would take a verbal beating with facts. your the coward squirming, I was just calling for a dis-claimer, what your radio icons do is GOP propaganda, not opinion.

    while Grant is a radio legend, famous for being a hatemonger, shrieking loonatic, he is not too bright and would be destroyed in any debate against say Franken, Sedar or Rhodes, again facts destroy rhetoric. All the right offers is rhetoric. Ratings? grant's ratings sucked his last few years, his average liastener was 80+ years old

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 16 January, 2007 14:10  

  • we don't influence millions of un-informed listeners

    Well duh. You have to have thousands of listeners before you have millions of listeners with which to un-inform. Wake me up when libtalk crosses that threshold...

    By Blogger BF, at 16 January, 2007 16:03  

  • BF

    it is doing it right now. Let's see in NY, AA has several hundred thousand listeners as they do all over America. I do a pod cast and internet show freak. "Liberal Talk" as a whole is growing. Deal with it 12%er. It has crossed that threshold. Americans are rejecting conservatism in the voting booth and on the radio

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 16 January, 2007 17:00  

  • "Americans are rejecting conservatism in the voting booth and on the radio"

    Okay, Strawman - you said it, now prove it.

    By Blogger SierraSpartan, at 16 January, 2007 20:55  

  • It's outrageous, to be sure, but not unexpected coming from the party of weakness.

    Oh, and there are some possible upsides to the 'fairness doctrine'... (evil grin).

    By Blogger directorblue, at 17 January, 2007 06:35  

  • It must be George Soros....after all, if George Soros funded Air America, as Brian has indicated, surely George Soros is responsible for funding the reinstution of the Fairness Doctrine!

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 17 January, 2007 12:53  

  • How was it that Paifica and the member stations that carried Pacifica, were able to avoid ANY compliance with the fairness doctrine when it was in effect?

    Assuming that the fairness doctrine is passed, how would it be enforced? If it can be shown that the networks are biased would they be subject to it? Would there be a private right of action, as in our environmental laws? Perhaps not Limbaugh Levin, but certainly Savage could argue that he is abouut as fair and balanced as network news, who would decide? And what would be the remedy? (here's an idea - Why not ban all political assertions from the broadcast media, just get rid of it all, then no worry about fairness).

    The problem is that there is a world of difference between what we had when the fairness doctrine was previosuly in effect, and what we have now. There used to something called the "establishment" and both Republicans and Democrats were part of it - the Democrats were not necessarily a party of the left and the Republicans a party of the right (remember "boll weevil" i.e. southern conservative Democrats?).

    Things have indeed changed, going from a wide consensus on most issues to huge differences (as I've said, its only a matter of time before people start shooting at each other over these differences). Although I do not have time to go over this and clarify my assertions, what I essentially am saying is this - the fairness doctrine will not and cannot work today - it is virtually unenforcable, because everyone who speaks now, speaks from a point of partisan point of view, and it isn't even necessarily left or right. Insert ethnic and racial considerations into a fairness doctrine, and you have an unenforcable morass, for lack of a better term - it just won't work. Who would make the decisions on whether something is fair or not?

    And, just as important. as in many things, the people pushing this thing better think about it, as it could easily have consequences no one intended!

    By Blogger thinkcon, at 17 January, 2007 17:52  

  • Thinkcon, the central issue is that there is no longer a differentiation between news, and opinion....

    Supporting the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine is not so much a means of suppression, but an attempt to reestablish balance, which both sides increasingly feel they have a monopoly on.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 18 January, 2007 08:38  

  • And what I'm saying is that there is no real way to measure balance any more. FOr example, Savage is a harsh critic of Republicans and Democrats - do you need balance there? He calls himself an independant conservative - would you need an independant Democrat?
    Pacifica has never been subject to the fairness doctrine - would they have to put on conservative commentators? If I think the networks lean too far to the left, would the networks have to achieve some sort of "balance" and present the other point of view? Who would be in charge of making those decisions (who used to?).

    As I had said, would it only be political, or would the broadcast medium also be subject to some sort of "diversity" test as well, so many people of such and such a racial and ethnic background, and would they have to have only the left or right point of view - if you put on a person of one ethinc background would that person have to speak from only one point of view? And we have more than just left and right, there are all sorts of points of view - we have lost most of the consensus that used to underlay our society - reimposition of the fairness doctrine is a slippery slope, which could lead to the banning of all forms of expression. Why would the left support that?

    In short, the world has changed so dramatically that the fairness doctrine simply can't work anymore - it would be a boon for people in my profession (lawyers) that's for damn sure. And my suggestion that the best way to address it is a ban on all political commentary through the government regulated broadcast medium (why not bad political advertising as well - what we have doesn't work anyway). Never happen of course, but on the other hand, radio used to not have any "political" content either other than news shows these are now looked at through the prism of left and right, Republican and Democrat where before you simply didn't have that.

    And, of course, I can't get over this feeling that the movement behind the reimposition of the fairness doctrine is an attempt to stifle conservative talk radio because of it's continuing ratings success - let's at least admit that. The imposition of the fairness doctrine would result in the elimination of conservative talk radio, as stations would have to set aside "equal time" for response. Respond to what - there is a free flowing exchange there, who would determine how to respond? Isn't more political speech better, because it allows people to pick and choose what to listen to? There are much more ways to express yourself now, why reimpose something that was imposed only because there was a limited numnber of media outlets? It just wouldn't work - we would go back to what we had before, except that you would instantly see "fairness" challenges to network news, cable news, NPR, PBS - one wonders why it wasn't done before the fairness doctrine was invalidated - some network does a story that someone claims is unfair to one side, and there is a demand for equal time. Reimposition leading to the destruction of conservative talk radio (the inevitable outcome) would also lead to the feeling of disenfranchisement for a substantial number of people, leading to anger, pushing us even closer to what we are going to have in a few years anyway unless somone can bring us all together (or the terrorists finally do that for us)- people shooting at each other.

    Here's an interesting question - would the fairness doctrine only be applicable to broadcast media, or would in apply to the internet and cable stations as well? I think it only applies to broadcast medium.

    In any event, this is only a rhetorical questions - half the Senate is still Republican and there isn't a ghost of a chance that this would make it through Congress, and if it did, Bush wouldn't sign it (at least I don't think he would - on second thought that blithering idiot is capable anything!!).


    By Blogger thinkcon, at 18 January, 2007 11:59  

  • Barrack is in the office now. Hear comes censorship. I think if it applies to one media out let it should apply to all media out lets. Let’s be “Fair”.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 November, 2008 09:46  

  • That’s right one opinion only is ridiculus. That’s why the Fairness docrtine used to require that both sides of an issue be presented. It’s not trying to impede speech nor is it trying to control what people say. You Republicans and Libertarians jump at the sound of the government trying to do anything (unless it’s to invade another country). The fairness doctrine protects the first amendement because it makes sure that Big money doesn’t control the media. Just because the conservatives can buy out 90% of the radio stations, it doesn’t mean that their view should be heard more.

    The second tenet of the Fairness docrtine was to require that all broadcasting stations report and discuss in soem way about local issues. That means if there’s something wrong that people don’t want to talk about, they have to or else they will lose their licenses.

    By Anonymous Web Promotion, at 03 August, 2010 07:12  

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