The Last Nail in the Coffin for the Fairness Doctrine?

by Luke Pelican on June 7, 2011 · 1 comment

in Personal Liberty, Regulation, Tech & Telecom

In response to calls by lawmakers for the Fairness Doctrine and related measures to be permanently removed from the Federal Register, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated that he plans to do just that. We’ve previously discussed the merits (or the lack thereof) of the Fairness Doctrine, but it bears repeating that the regulation burdens free speech instead of invigorating it. It has no place in a free society with a vibrant media marketplace.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell echoed these sentiments in a recent speech:

Suffice it to say that political speech is core protected speech under the First Amendment, and the Fairness Doctrine is patently unconstitutional.  The FCC decided as much in 1987 when everyone assumed the FCC killed it. We thought that this monster’s dead and stinking corpse was left to rot in a government graveyard.  Instead, it appears that the Commission merely opted not to enforce the rule. Its words still defile the pages of the CFR, and we should erase it with a repeal order immediately.

While Mr. Genachowski’s rumored move would certainly be a step in the right direction, there is still much progress to be made in thwarting the FCC’s other efforts at speech regulation. Under the guise of ensuring “programming is responsive to needs of local communities,” the FCC is considering various broadcast localism proposals, including the creation of permanent community advisory boards that broadcasters would be required to consult on local needs and issues. The FCC is also exploring the possibility of requiring broadcasters to operate a studio in their community of license. These rules hinder broadcasters more than they benefit communities, and in fact can operate as a barrier to entry for minority broadcasters and other small outfits.

The FCC should leave broadcasting to the experts instead of imposing regulations that cause more problems than they solve.

ExRat June 8, 2011 at 12:02 am

Things would get a lot simpler if SCOTUS would go back to the easy-to-understand concept of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ….” When a law or regulation mandates that a radio or TV station must allocate a certain portion of a limited resource (e.g., the 24 hours in a day) to a particular kind of speech, or point of view, or subject matter, then they are necessarily abridging the freedom of speech of the owner of that radio or TV station, by reducing the amount of time that is available for other programming. I’m no fan of gratuitous and blatant sex and violence on TV or of certain kinds of radio programming, but I’d rather have those things available for those who like them and have to make choices about what stations to patronize than to have some bureaucrat in DC deny or abridge my range of choices.

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