Fairness Doctrine: Not Your Daddy’s Doctrine

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The Liberal think tank, Center for American Progress, has issued a 36-page report explaining why and how talk radio must be, and easily can be, regulated by a Fairness Doctrine – but not regulated in the way we conventionally think of a Fairness Doctrine.

This is a simple and doable plan for Democrats. The Fairness Doctrine will happen this way: All stations will be required to issue many new licenses to minorities – ethnic and women, which is known as “localism.” Licenses will be up for review, and reissue, every three years rather than the current eight years. Programming will be basically local.

Moreover, the original Communications Act of 1934 still authorizes the FCC to require “reasonable access to or to permit purchase of reasonable amounts of time” by a legally qualified candidate for federal elective office, and equal opportunities must be afforded all their candidates for that office….

These obligations come from the same set of concerns from which the Fairness Doctrine arose. And Section 315 of the Communications Act still requires commercial broadcasters “to operate in the public interest and to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of issues of public importance.”…

Thus, the public obligations inherent in the Fairness Doctrine are still in existence and operative, at least on paper.

The Center for American Progress says that the original Fairness Doctrine’s real value was not in the “fair discussion of important issues,” but in the way licenses could be issued:

…limited license terms to three years [from eight, I think], subjected broadcasters to license challenges through comparative hearings, required notice to the local community that licenses were going to expire, and empowered the local community through a process of interviewing a variety of local leaders.

Perhaps the plan is to scrap the Telecommunications Act of 1996, mandated by Congress, which increased the number of radio stations that “one entity could own in the same market.” However, doing so may not be necessary to bring achieve a plethora of Liberal programming and deny Conservative content.

The death of syndicated programming (national shows like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity) is imminent if Democrats have their way, to be replaced with local programming. In public, Democrats will say this has little to do with providing opposing viewpoints, but as this study finds, the new licensees will be decidedly Liberal.

…of all 10,506 licensed commercial radio stations in the country suggests that stations owned by racial or ethnic minorities are statistically less likely to air conservative hosts or shows and more likely to air progressive hosts or shows….

This is an issue Barack Obama and Congress need not direct. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can accomplish all of the above without a word from Congress or the President.

A question for readers: Any opinions about advertisers and the enormous income to stations from successful programming, supported by advertising dollars? How will the money be replaced? Does it matter if stations are smaller, local and not in need of big money?


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