Fred Thompson’s formal announcement of his candidacy on the Tonight Show on Wednesday has focused more attention on the FCC’s Equal Opportunities doctrine. We wrote about the issue, here, highlighting the fact that evolving FCC policy has found that more and more broadcast programming is exempt from the Equal Time rules, as it is considered to be bona fide news interview programming. The Hearst Argyle television stations around the country last night ran a segment in their news programming on that issue – a segment in which I was interviewed. That segment can be viewed, here – a genuine bona fide news interview if ever there was one.
The television segment is also interesting in that it asked the question whether the FCC’s rules will ever be expanded to the new media. While the rules do apply to some new media (like satellite radio), extending them to the Internet seems unlikely. How could such rules ever be applied to the hundreds of thousands of individualized web sites spread across the Internet. The Federal Election Commission has been struggling with issues of whether it should extend its campaign spending and contribution limits to the Internet, most recently in announcing a decision that favorable comments about candidates made in blogs are not campaign contributions subject to FEC rules. The FEC took the position that blogs are media outlets exempt from FEC regulation – much like the FCC’s decisions expanding the scope of the news interview exception from the Equal Opportunities doctrine. People get their news and opinion from more and more diverse sources, and the government seems to be correctly moving in the right direction of allowing this diverse political discussion to flourish free from the hand of regulation.