Fairness Doctrine Panic

Fairness Doctrine Panic hits FCC, spreads through blogosphere:

The Fairness Doctrine will come up again and again over the next few years–mostly invoked by Republicans. Barack Obama says he opposes the Fairness Doctrine. But expect everything that he asks of broadcasters and the Internet to get called the Fairness Doctrine anyway. You can also expect conservatives to see the Doctrine in any telecom proposal that sounds too regulatory: requiring a minimum of local radio fare, restrictions on product placement, caps on how much junk food advertisers can hawk to children on digital TV, etc. All these sinister ideas, plus net neutrality, will be boiled in the same rhetorical broth.
In the final analysis, this debate isn’t about an extinct FCC policy. Right now it’s about scoring political points. And, most importantly, it’s about prolonging the fantasy that our nation’s broadcasting/telecommunications infrastructure can effectively serve us without government playing a constructive role.

7 responses to “Fairness Doctrine Panic

  1. If I may be a bit contrarian, I’d say those ideas deserve to be boiled in rhetorical broth. “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” is a pretty good idea. Even with respect to tacky, unpleasant, or commercial speech. Doubly so on the internet, where even the fig leaf of the “public airwaves” argument doesn’t apply.

  2. There is no goal so worthy that it’s worth throwing away the 1st amendment for. To take ads as an example. The solution to bad free speech is more good speech not restrictions on the bad speech.

  3. I picked the most catchy paragraph to quote from a lengthy post. You may like the rest of it and agree with some of the stuff there.

  4. Matt Springer & sng:
    IIRC that’s exactly what the fairness doctrine was all about. It didn’t stop anybody saying anything. It just said something like if a media outlet gave a pro-banana person a platform, it had to allow an anti-banana person a platform to respond.

  5. There’s too much first ammendment pedantry about. Too much it is used to restrict democracy and accountability. Criminals can do what they like and we, through our government, can’t do a damn thing. The wording of it needs updating to make clear that no powerful entity can stifle the voice of the powerless. That seems to be what mainstream media is about.

  6. Tincture,
    No. That’s not what the fairness doctrine did. It made a privately owned media outlet give the anti-banana people a platform using their resources. Big difference. If the anti-banana people have a platform then the government can’t take that away from them. But they have to bring their own platform to the party, as it were. With the exception of net neutrality all of the examples being used are bare unabashed censorship. Consider that while some people might think that handing those tools to Obama is a good idea that those tools will also be used by the next neocon. And history assures us there will be another one. Better to just not give those tools to anybody in government and support platforms for those people who are delivering what we think is the right message.
    The irony of including net neutrality in that list is that the entire justification for it is based off of common carrier status and that common carrier status is predicated on them not caring or knowing what’s being sent through their pipes. In other words it’s the polar opposite of the other forms of censorship the author of the article is lumping it in with.
    You are confusing stifling with supporting. Or to put it another way. You are confusing the right to stand in the park and say whatever the fuck you want with me being told I have to let you into my apartment and turn the lights on so you can read your screed. By your definition me not opening my door when you knock is stifling you. I think most people can see the obvious problem with that scenario.

  7. I’m reminded of the story of a digital tv corp that sued one of their subscibers for refusing to watch ads. I’m not for taking away the off switch but there are those who are. I just think they should be accountable.