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.
NBC and ABC fall against sports
TV ad clutter is worse than ever
Ranking the new shows, top to bottom
‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’ surprisingly good
Rachel, I hear promise after promise
Tell us what you want from OOH ratings
Weekend TV: The zombies return
Cable overnights: Another MLB record
Fusion lays off 30 two years after launch
Even with decline, ‘Empire’ dominates
Cute: Halloween fun on Realtor.com
Survey: Morale is low at agencies
Rupert really steps in it on Twitter
- David Kolbusz becomes CCO at Droga5 London
- Andrew Dauska becomes managing director at TBWA\Chiat\Day
- Lisa Zakarin becomes managing director at Publicis Hawkeye
- Kevin Dolak, Seung Lee and Helen Russell join Newsweek
- Karen DeFriez becomes affiliate sales manager at Westwood One
- Dick Costolo joins HBO's 'Silicon Valley' as a consultant
- Lou Diamond Phillips guesting on NBC's 'Blindspot'
- Melanie Liburd joins HBO's 'Game of Thrones'
- 'Sopranos' actor Frank Albanese dies at age 84
This week’s broadcast ratings
This week’s cable ratings
This week’s top movies, songs and books
This week’s daypart ratings
This month’s new media traffic data
This week’s younger viewer ratings
Digital media planner opening in Seattle
Paid social media planner wanted in McLean, Virginia
Assistant OOH strategist position in New York
Media planner wanted in Philadelphia
Media buyer coordinator opening in New Haven