Last week, we wrote about the potential return of the Fairness Doctrine, reminding broadcasters what the doctrine had really meant – free commercials to groups that wanted to respond to purchased ads addressing controversial issues of public importance, and few if any editorials or controversial programming that took a position on issues, as that would also have meant giving free time to those with competing views on an issue. As we suggested, the doctrine was a restraint on the First Amendment freedoms of broadcasters which would never have been tolerated in a print medium.
This week, Broadcasting & Cable magazine editorialized against the return of the policy, citing how the Doctrine led to meaningless editorials on nothing but fluff, and stating that, no matter how bad programming on a broadcast station might be, it was better than restricting broadcaster freedoms. Nat Hentoff in the Washington Times provides a much more detailed and compelling argument against the Fairness Doctrine, recalling days from a broadcast newsroom where controversy was forbidden, and the failure to provide fairness would result in the onslaught of armies of lawyers to answer complaints.
We will see if Congress is reading these comments.