Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

John Thune on the revival of the Fairness Doctrine

Readers know how much we stand for our rights in this nation. We are constantly in danger of having them eroded by those in Washington, DC that believe they know better than we do. We've seen it with firearms legislation. We've seen the Supreme Court completely misinterpret what the Constitution says and means. Now, Congress has decided that they should look into whether or not the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstituted. John Thune, (R-SD) has penned a piece for Real Clear Politics on the subject:

From its birth, our nation has put a high value on independent thought and freedom of speech. Our Founding Fathers themselves saw their lot as conscientious insurrectionists seeking freedoms they believed were inalienable rights. They understood the importance of permitting freedom of conscience whether it be in the religious, political, or social sphere. Today we continue to fight to preserve these freedoms both here at home and in many dark corners around the world.

Unfortunately, some in Washington DC are reviving an old idea that the government can, and should, regulate the reporting of news, information and ideas. If we take them at their word, they are doing it in the name of "fairness." But if we look deeper, we may see motives not nearly so noble.

For over 150 years our nation understood that freedom of speech was best achieved by keeping the government out of the business of regulating "fairness." Eventually though, a few at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) thought they could do a better job than the system set up by the framers of the Constitution and took fairness-promotion into their own hands. In a 1949 report entitled Report of Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees, federal bureaucrats at the FCC set forth the "Fairness Doctrine" which would govern the use of public airwaves for 30 years. This doctrine, which was promoted by the FCC and never approved by Congress, required broadcast licensees to present "controversial issues" of public importance in an equal and balanced manner.

Rather than promote fairness though, the Fairness Doctrine created a chilling effect among broadcasters when it came to reporting controversial topics. In order to avoid the lash of federal bureaucrats, many broadcasters opted for silence. In the name of promoting "fairness," the FCC squelched free speech and public debate.

In 1985, President Reagan exposed the true effects of the Fairness Doctrine and argued that it should be repealed. The Reagan administration noted the "explosive growth in the number and types of information sources." In 1987, the FCC finally repealed the Fairness Doctrine. The FCC determined that the policy had the opposite of its intended effect. The FCC concluded that the Fairness Doctrine "restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters ... (and) actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and the degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists."

Since 1987 we have seen even greater growth in how we get news and information including the rise of talk radio, internet news sites, and blogs, yet some critics on the left are calling for the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine. The efforts of these critics, who are especially offended by the success of conservative talk radio, should be rejected. Our support for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech means that we must support the rights granted to even those with whom we disagree. Giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for disaster on the scale that George Orwell so aptly envisioned.

I for one will strongly oppose any efforts to bring back the Fairness Doctrine or other policies similar to it. I have introduced legislation that would prohibit the FCC from reinstituting these policies, which is a good first step. I know the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness. I think most Americans have the same reaction. That is why I will do my part to ensure speech remains free and that Americans can continue to debate the issues of the day through our diverse forms of media in a free and open manner.

As someone who works in radio, I'd like to point out that the Fairness Doctrine will not promote any sort of balance on the airwaves. While it can't target the Internet, it can go after talk radio, and that's what it's designed to do. The Left is ticked that subscription and circulation numbers are down for their newspapers. They're also not happy that ratings are down for the news shows on TV. This rejection of the MSM comes from two things. First, america's not dumb. the curtain has been pulled back, and we're wise to the media in America. We know they have a liberal slant to their reporting. Secondly, why bother with newspapers? They have websites, and the vast majority of stories are available for free. There are over 200 million people who cruise the Internet daily. The need for cage liners is almost at an end. And with the advent of mediums like YouTube, we are one mouse-click away from being able to watch news stories, interviews, and commentary.

With the media on the ropes it's no wonder why many of them are pimping the idea of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. Talk radio will be knocked from the public airwaves in favor of home improvement or gardening shows. It won't die; rather it will move to a medium that, thus far, Congress has not delved into yet, which is satellite radio. Another way to get around the bloody idea is to move talk radio to the Internet. Blog Talk Radio is a new, growing medium on the Internet that allows the average person to have their own radio show. Captain Ed has his own show as do a few others that we listen to.

While we both doubt that the Fairness Doctrine will be reestablished, we do have other options if it can't be stopped. I'd rather not see it come to fruition because the idea behind it is to quell our free speech -- our free political speech when it comes to talk radio, in general -- and that runs contrary to the founding ideas of this nation.

Publius II


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