Censorship Under The Guise Of Fairness

I addressed the so called “Fairness Doctrine” about a year ago.  Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced support for the Fairness Doctrine.

For those unfamiliar with the subject, the Fairness Doctrine would force private radio stations to provide equal time to opposing points of view when dealing with political programming.  The marketplace (you) would not be permitted to decide which programs should be on the radio, rather, a federal bureaucracy would make the decision for you (and the radio stations).  More background can be found on the Wikipedia page.

It is, generally, agreed that the result will be a significant cutback in talk radio programming as stations will be, understandably, unwilling to fund poor programing consumers dislike opposite of what they consider a quality, revenue-generating program.  Rather than lose three hours of revenue, the station (or parent company) is more likely to cancel the programs and switch formats (or entirely terminate the station).  Clearly, the Fairness Doctrine is largely designed to shut down conservative talk radio, but will also affect liberal talk stations in their markets.  The doctrine also has the potential to be expanded to political internet sites.

Unsurprisingly, Speaker Pelosi along with some other Democrats are the biggest proponents of government making the decision on what political speech a station can carry and how much it can carry.  In the meantime, Representative Mike Pence has introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act (HR 2905) which will block the imposition of the Fairness Doctrine (and government meddling with what you wish to listen to).  Speaker Pelosi has promptly blocked the bill from coming to the House floor for a vote.

As a result, a discharge petition was filed to force the legislation to the House floor for an up or down vote.

For Utahns: Representatives Bishop and Cannon have signed the petition while Representative Matheson (scroll down for his phone numbers) has not.

For everyone else: Check the discharge petiton (above).  If your Representative has not signed it, contact them and politely ask them to sign it and oppose the imposition of bureaucratic desicions on what political speech you can listen to.  You can find you Representatives by State or by going to the House “Write Your Representative” page and entering your zip code.

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2 thoughts on “Censorship Under The Guise Of Fairness

  1. I’ve heard Bill Moyers talk about the problem, first experienced by newspapers and now by tv and radio stations, that a few large corporations are buying up all of the media outlets. I think this is unhealthy, and I agree with Moyers that it needs to be corrected.

    Is this what Democrats are trying to fix, or are they really trying to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine, or both?

    I guess I haven’t done enough study on the issue.

  2. The Fairness Doctrine will, is not designed to address Moyer’s concern (note: Moyers, too, has an agenda and pushes it on his ‘unbiased’ PBS specials, but that’s not the focus of your question). However, a government takeover of corporations owning media outlets would, too, have ‘undesirable’ consequences for the marketplace and free speech (I suppose such action would be considered an end run around the Fairness Doctrine to full government control of the media).

    The Fairness Doctrine is, at this time, specifically targeted to political speech. That does nothing to stop anyone from buying outlets (we have monopoly laws are for that).

    Also, just for fun, let’s say we end up with a radio monopoly. The Fairness Doctrine will not break it up. It will only ensure that the company will not carry political talk shows (or carry an incredibly limited number compared to today’s standards). Ultimately, a monopoly’s goal is to make money. In radio, listeners = money. Serving listener demands is how they maximize listeners (and money).

    Even without the Fairness Doctrine, a monopoly would not ignore market demands and select one, specific, viewpoint to run with. People don’t need radio, they turn it off. Trying to force everyone to listen to one, lousy format is an expedient way to not be a monopoly (read bankruptcy) for very long. Further, with streaming internet broadcasts here and world-wide, they wouldn’t have a prayer.

    The only thing that really would have the power to shut out all viewpoints on a media format (including the internet) is government.

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