In a Sunday column, George Will revisited conservative commentators’ biggest fear – the return of the Fairness Doctrine. Will went into depth on the history of the doctrine, the growth in the number of broadcast outlets in recent years, and growth in talk programming since the doctrine was abolished, all to argue against its
Last week, President-elect Barack Obama delivered his first weekly radio address since he was elected President. The broadcast made news, not only for its content, but also because it was streamed on the Internet, particularly on You Tube, but also retransmitted on many other websites. The fact that the Internet makes such transmissions not only possible, but so easy and so widely available demonstrates one of many reasons why all the worry about the return of the Fairness Doctrine is unwarranted. With access to so many diverse opinions not only on the radio but also through all of the new technologies, why should the government care that one radio station may not cover all sides of a controversial issue? If one station does not put on a strongly held viewpoint on an important issue, you can bet that someone who holds that viewpoint will find some way to transmit it to others.
The return of the Fairness Doctrine has been the great invisible monster in the room since the election – with many commentators, particularly conservative ones, worrying that the Democratic Congress will attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Off-hand comments such as those made by Senator Schumer on Fox News, have fueled this speculation, even though the Obama campaign has specifically rejected such a return. The Fairness Doctrine is one grounded in scarcity of the electronic spectrum – from the fear that if one side of an issue was allowed to dominate one of the few means of communicating with the population of a community, it would effectively be able to stifle the ability of those with contrasting viewpoints to get their message out. But, to use a phrase that is becoming increasingly popular – that thinking is so 20th Century.