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Fairness Doctrine Dead And Buried, Some Foresee New Enemies Of Political Dissidence

August 24, 2011 by  

Fairness Doctrine Dead And Buried, Some Foresee New Enemies Of Political Dissidence

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on Monday that it would bring an official end to 83 regulations the organization now considers obsolete. One of the more famous provisions to be cut from the FCC’s regulatory books is the Fairness Doctrine, which has not been enforced for nearly two decades but remains in FCC rules.

The Fairness Doctrine became law in 1949, and was a means by which the FCC could ensure that the opinions of mainstream political ideologies received equal play on public airwaves. As more room became available on the airwaves over the years, the FCC was encouraged to re-investigate the language of the doctrine, which many opponents considered an attack on the basic rights of free speech. Many people believed the law was used more than once to stifle pointed political and social commentary citing such events as the 1969 Supreme Court ruling in Red Lion v. FCC, when a conservative broadcasting network was told it must offer free and equal airtime to a news reporter with contrary views.

During the Reagan era, the FCC — understanding that public airwaves were then accessible to thousands of stations — found that the rule, “actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance” and no longer enforced the regulation.

Current FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said on Monday: “The Fairness Doctrine holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas and was properly abandoned over two decades ago. I am pleased we are removing these and other obsolete rules from our books.”

Though the doctrine and the other 82 obsolete rules have been and will remain dead, Fox News reported earlier this month that some people still worry of other measures the FCC could be taking at the expense of free speech by enforcing “localism,” a principal that would ensure that local stations serve their communities.

“The government would be compiling data as to what kind of content you were airing and whether the government thought that was appropriate content,” said Robert McDowell, an FCC commissioner in a Fox interview. “It could be political speech; it could be shows on baking or gardening. But we don’t know where the government is headed.”

Many free speech advocates have turned their attention from concerns about 1st Amendment violations in traditional broadcasting to focus on issues with newer forms of mass communication recently.  Following riots in England earlier this month and social disturbances in San Francisco (both instances in which governments tested measures of stifling communications through cellphone service and social networking websites), new questions have surfaced.

A bill that would give government the right to shut down portions of the Web in the name of national security, dubbed by many as “the kill switch,” was proposed by Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) last year. Many people remain concerned that the U.S. will inch toward total governance of the Internet and other mass communication media through small measures in legislation like Lieberman’s.


Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • Robert Smith

    I’d like to note that the (right wing lable) scurge of the “Fairness Doctrine” was killed under the Obama administration.

    And that WGCB had some good programing overnight with Chet E’s overnight jazz show. About as far from the extreme right or left as anyone could be. When the bars closed entertainers would gather at the station and ocasionaly jam on air. It was a great time.


    • DaveH

      Not sure what your reference to right-wing was about, Robert, but the Fairness Doctrine was initiated under Harry Truman, a Democrat. And the usage of the Fairness Doctrine was ended in 1987 under Ronald Reagan, a Republican.
      All the current FCC is doing is taking it off the books.
      And don’t let the FCC fool you, people, with this red-herring. They have many other censorship tricks up their sleeves:

      • People’s Rights

        No, I believe it’s actually, “one of the most INFAMOUS provisions to be cut from the Federal Communications Commission’s regulatory books is the Fairness Doctrine.” It was considered an attack on the basic rights of free speech.

        Even A. Jones has said, “The federal government would have “”absolute power”” to shut down the Internet under the terms of a new US Senate bill being pushed by Joe Lieberman – Kill Switch” Bill approved.”

        The Cybersecurity Act of 2009, S.773 aka “Kill Switch”

  • Verus Langham

    I have a major issue with this information about a Federal Regulatory agency having the authority to ignore the law and “bring an official end to 83 regulations the organization now considers obsolete”. Aren’t all federal agencies subject to the law of the land? Haven’t we as a people been “governed” by those “83 regulations” in our usage of communications media sent across the air waves of America (and the world)? And if so, would it not then follow that those “regulations” actually held the full force of a legislated LAW enacted by a Congress we call our authority for rule making? How can we even fathom that the FCC was so derelict in their duty to uphold these laws and now after so long a time declare the law of the land defunct and therefore totally abandon them…. is that even remotely legal? Then it would also follow that a body of unelected officials has power to checkmate the Congress and do as they well please, including (foremost in my thinking) 86ing the “Fairness Doctrine”. It is not a complicated leap from a commission which wields such power may ultimately acquire those powerful lobbyist influences which proscribe their political bent…. Watch out, America….. socialism wins yet another ally (keeping the masses in tune with state policy as in any way they spin it).

    • http://peronalliberty Kevin

      VerusLongwind: What in the hell did you just say? If you don’t like it just come out and say so, if you are all for it (fairness doc)spin it anyway you want, but any thing that is a doctrine I have to be very waery of. The whole idea of Fairness Doctrine? sounds like a progessive term for censorship, they always have some nice a cuddly way of saying things. nothing but a bunch of hippocrates (rymes with democrats). do s I say not as I do, and if you don’t like it, we will make it as hard as we can for you to say or do anything about it.

    • iam

      That is precisely what is wrong with the whole system of creating these agencies. They are allowed to make regulations that carry the weight of law without a single vote in Congress. For the most recent violation of the principle of law, just look at what the NLRB has done regarding the right of a company to decide where to create new jobs.

  • DaveH

    Abolish the FCC. There is no need for any Government agency to regulate the content of radio broadcasts or any other kind of broadcasts. The FCC is Censorship at its finest.

    • Robert Smith

      The FCC is NECESSARY. If the frequencies and power aren’t controlled nobody would be able to do anything.

      AND! The air waves would be full of nudity and cursing like Canada and England if some agency didn’t say “NO.”

      And the right wing wouldn’t have a way to savage “liberal” (not true but lots on the right say they are) networks like they did to CBS when Janet Jackson was exposed.


      • DaveH

        That’s what the OFF button is for, Robert.
        Even Liberals can muster enough energy to use it.


    For another agency which I detest, this is somewhat of a break, there never was a “fair” in that doctrine and you can bet your sweet bippy this same agency is hard at work listening to the enemies of free speech just as they have done in the past…tyranny cannot stand the scrutiny of exposure by logic and fact, free speech is it’s worst enemy.
    We are under assault still….

    • Robert Smith

      Yup, like the Smuthers Brothers were censored.


  • s c

    Why didn’t they name that crap the ‘fair and balanced’ doctrine? Very few people take the time to realize that when it comes to government matters, ‘fair’ is a subjective term that hides behind semantics. The same is true for ‘balanced.’
    For someone who doesn’t know what subjective means, it means it’s loosely defined and can be thought of as the opposite of objective. Think of objective as a FACT.
    If you can imagine the prez and his flunkies as barbarians who will do anything to destroy free speech in America, this is simply a ploy to make us feel comfy. They have more than enough volunteer flunkies and apprectices to dream up more insane ^#*@ to make the rest of us suffer. It’s what they do, people. Trust them at your peril.

    • Robert Smith

      Posted: “‘fair’ is a subjective term that hides behind semantics. The same is true for ‘balanced.’”

      Sounds like you are talking about Fox, not the FCC.


    • Robert Smith

      ” ^#*@”

      Awwww, are you censored bunky?


    • http://?? Joe H.

      robert is in favor of the worst censorship of all!! That of ACORNS from becoming oak trees!!!


    The FCC is just another federal boondogle designed to use our own tax money against us , as is all things federal .

  • Alheimstead

    FCC is merely another word for bondage.


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