Eye on ’09: Fairness Doctrine

(posted 1/28/09)

Following President Obama’s warning against listening to Rush Limbaugh, rumors regarding the Fairness Doctrine have become even more common.  This week’s Eye on ’09 segment will explain the Fairness Doctrine and how it relates to you.The Fairness Doctrine is an FCC rule that was implemented in 1949, and was designed to ensure fair and equal coverage of controversial issues on television and radio.  However, the rule quickly morphed into one that allowed government officials to force radio and TV stations to agree with the President’s messages.  In 1969, The Supreme Court said that the Fairness Doctrine is legal as long as it does not hamper the on-air coverage of important issues.  Just five years later, The Supreme Court found that the government’s involvement in the media makes the debate on issues less colorful and decreases the variety of information one could get through the radio or television.  The rule was removed in 1987, and several attempts to revive the Fairness Doctrine have been unsuccessful.  Some members of Congress have expressed interest in bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, but because it is an FCC rule, the FCC Chair (appointed by the President) can bring it back at any time without the need to pass any new law. 

If the Fairness Doctrine is brought back, you can be sure that conservative talk radio and religious freedom over the airways would come to an end.

CLICK HERE to read more information about the Fairness Doctrine!

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One Response to Eye on ’09: Fairness Doctrine

  1. Ebenezer Screed says:

    Hi. I am an older Christian who lives in a state other than Texas. The Fairness Doctrine was in effect when I was growing up back in the 1950s and 1960s. That was in a time when there was no cable T.V.,just the big three national airwave networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC)and the occasional local educational channel.

    The Fairness Doctrine was not a rarely discussed and poorly understood subject in that time. Virtually everyone knew about it (even a kid like me) because news broadcasters would often bring it up on their shows and explain exactly what it entailed to their audiences. It was not at all a controversial subject at that time—no more so than Bayer aspirin, Alka-Seltzer, or Shake ‘n Bake. It simply meant that if a broadcast station allowed one special interest group to express its unique views about a controversial issue on the air, the station was required to give the opposing side equal on-air time to express its unique views on the same subject. If I recall correctly, on many occasions, our local stations did exactly that, allowing the public to hear both sides of an issue.

    Even as a child, I remember thinking that this was just a matter of simple fairness, balance, and equality. It seemed to me that all of the Christian and nonChristian adults around me were of the same opinion (conservatives, liberals, independents). I do not recall a single adult in my life who ever criticized it as being wrong, unfair, or something that should have been terminated back in those days. In fact, if you really think about it, the Fairness Doctrine embodies exactly the same “equal time to present and criticize” that the FMF is requesting with regard to being able to air opposing opinions about evolution in Texas science classrooms.

    Therefore, this Christian thinks it would be just perfectly fine and fair to bring back the Fairness Doctrine and by so doing allow the public an opportunity to hear both sides of an issue in the broadcast media. In fact, now that you have brought up the subject and gotten me to thinking about it, I think that I may write a letter to the new head of the FCC to request reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine.

    Many thanks to the FMF and the Texas State Board of Education for the inspiration because I had really not heard very much about the Fairness Doctrine in many years. In fact, I did not even know that they had done away with it until many years after it had happened.

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