So long to a relic: The Fairness Doctrine
Regulation required stations to present opposing views
August 23, 2011
Twenty-four years after the Federal Communications Commission stopped enforcing it, the Fairness Doctrine is finally being struck from the agency’s book of regulations.
The FCC said yesterday that it will eliminate the controversial law, which was instituted in 1949 to ensure that all broadcasters gave equal time to differing political viewpoints, as part of a greater agency housecleaning that will strike down a total of 83 other little-enforced rules.
The Fairness Doctrine made sense, at least in theory, when it was introduced during the Harry Truman era. Back then there were fewer media outlets, and a lot of areas of the country, as well as big cities, were dominated by political machines that often exercised their power to stifle dissent.
Regulators wanted to ensure that listeners and viewers were exposed to a balanced range of political views instead of just one.
In practice, however, the Fairness Doctrine put a chill on political coverage. In the early years stations were reluctant to allow political talk of any sort for fear they would not present enough balance to satisfy government regulators.
As the media world matured, and viewpoints on the left and right became plentiful on news talk shows, as well as cable outlets such as Fox News Channel and MSNBC, the rule seemed more and more antiquated.
Though it stayed on the books, the FCC stopped enforcing it in 1987.
That did not stop some from attempting to have it enforced.
Occasionally someone on the left or right would call upon the FCC to step in, typically when their opponents were seen to be getting more coverage than they thought they deserved.
For example, a few years back, Democrats pressed the FCC to look into the plethora of right-leaning radio talk shows on stations that did not present a similar left-leaning option.
But those requests never resulted in an actual investigation, and earlier this summer FCC chairman Julius Genachowski told Congress that he intended to get rid of the rule.
It won’t be officially stricken from the books for several weeks, however. The FCC has to publish a notice in the Federal Register first.
Buh-bye, Boo Boo: TLC cancels reality show
‘Thursday Night Football’ goes out on top
No new shows have been axed. Why?
Magazines’ one area of hurt: On PCs
‘Death Comes to Pemberley,’ dear Jane
Rachel, I’ve gone years with no raise
Tell us, what’s your take on Martha Stewart?
Best tube bets this weekend
World Series viewership rises in Game 2
Behind AMC’s decision to buy into BBC America
Final cable upfront tally: Down from last year
FCC: Media mega-mergers are on hold
Competition holds up against World Series
- Matt Herrmann becomes CSO at Pereira & O’Dell
- Jeff Maldavir rises to VP of client services at Millennium Communications
- Peter Lattman rises to deputy business editor at The NY Times
- Boris Gartner becomes chief strategy officer at Fusion
- Paul Greenberg becomes CEO at Nylon Media
- Andrew Horlick rises to VP of sales at Bidtellect
- Courtney Love joins the cast of Fox's 'Empire’
- Steve Coogan replacing late Philip Seymour Hoffman in Showtime's 'Happyish'
- Michelle Trachtenberg guesting on Fox's 'Sleepy Hollow'
This month’s new media traffic data
This week’s cable ratings
This week’s broadcast ratings
This week’s top movies, songs and books
This week’s daypart ratings
This week’s younger viewer ratings
Media freelancer available for all markets
Media buyer job in Syracuse
Assistant media planner/buyer wanted in Austin
Digital media buyer/planner job in Norcross, Georgia
Associate media planner wanted in Chicago