fairness doctrine

Fairness Doctrine

The Fairness Doctrine was a Federal Communications Commission rule requiring over-the-air radio and television broadcasters to be fair and balanced (so to speak). For instance, if a TV station broadcast a station editorial, they had to allow anyone else (within reason) to present a contrasting view of the issue. Nowadays, some in the Democratic Party see it as a way to silence right-wing radio; such attempts are sometimes called "Hush Rush" movements, after Rush Limbaugh.

However, due to the negative connotations associated with the rule, it's probably not going to come back despite it being supported by some politicians. And, Barack Obama opposes it.

But, never fear, for the Democratic Party has a new trick up their sleeve. Instead of bringing back the FD, they support efforts that would have the same chilling effect. Obama and others oppose what they call media consolidation and support its related localism, i.e., enforcing ownership rules to give licenses to companies based out of the locations of their licensed stations. And, those plans are supported by the Obama-linked Center for American Progress; note that their blog ThinkProgress refers to mainstream talkers like Rush as "hate radio".

The bottom line is that the Democratic Party wants to reduce the influence of Rush and similar talkers, and they're going to try to do it using something that will have a similar effect as the FD but just not with the FD itself.

Unfortunately, some opponents of these plans hurt their case by outright claiming that the Democrats want to "bring back the Fairness Doctrine" instead of saying something like "they want to bring back something that would have the same effect as the Fairness Doctrine; it might be the FD with a different name, or it might use different tactics to achieve the same effect." The second is much wordier, but if something like that isn't used, Obama supporters will be able to deflect the impact by referring to the fact that Obama opposes the FD.

Last modified Feb 6, 2009
Discussed in (click each link for the full post):

Cass Sunstein, Obama "regulatory czar", proposed "fairness doctrine" for internet - 04/28/09

From this:

Barack Obama's nominee for "regulatory czar" (Cass Sunstein) has advocated a "Fairness Doctrine" for the Internet that would require opposing opinions be linked and also has suggested angry e-mails should be prevented from being sent by technology that would require a 24-hour cooling off period... Sunstein first proposed the notion of imposing mandatory "electronic sidewalks" for the Net. These "sidewalks" would display links to opposing viewpoints... Later, Sunstein rethought his proposal, explaining that it would be "too difficult to regulate [the Internet] in a way that would respond to those concerns." He also acknowledged that it was "almost certainly unconstitutional."

There's a longer treatment of these issues here. It's important to note that some of the proposals above and the others at WND (such as banning hunting and gun control) may be positions he no longer holds or positions that were mostly rhetorical in nature. However, no doubt the positions he'll hold if nominated will have some of the same underlying features.

ACLU controlling Obama policy? ("Transition Recommendations" wants most immigration enforcement halted, + much more) - 03/17/09

In November, the American Civil Liberties Union released "Actions For Restoring America: Transition Recommendations for President‐Elect Barack Obama" (aclu.org/transition) listing things they wanted him to do the first day, within the first 100 days, and within the first year. Several of their proposals would halt immigration enforcement to a great extent, pending "review".

Senate votes to prevent Fairness Doctrine, ignoring fact that it might come back in another form - 02/26/09

The Senate has voted 87 to 11 in support of an amendment that would prevent the Fairness Doctrine from coming back (link).

Obama reiterates Fairness Doctrine opposition; concentrate on his plans that would have the same effect - 02/18/09

Fox News asked the Obama administration whether they want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, and spokesman Ben LaBolt said (link):

"As the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated."

Henry Waxman: bring back Fairness Doctrine under another name... and for the internet too? - 02/17/09

There's news from Venezuela North, also known as the mind of Rep. Henry Waxman, as according to this his representatives met with FCC staffers to discuss ways to put in place a form of the "Fairness Doctrine" without actually calling it such. An unnamed "House Energy staffer" says:
It's all about diversity in media... Does one radio station or one station group control four of the five most powerful outlets in one community? Do four stations in one region carry Rush Limbaugh, and nothing else during the same time slot? Does one heavily trafficked Internet site present one side of an issue and not link to sites that present alternative views? These are some of the questions the chairman is thinking about right now, and we are going to have an FCC that will finally have the people in place to answer them."
Give me my Instalanche, it's in the U.S. Code! I like the idea, but, well, actually I don't. I'd prefer to discredit Glenn Reynolds, Wikipedia, and all the rest the old-fashioned way.

Bear in mind that the source is unnamed, but note also that many Obama fans wouldn't have a problem with halting any speech that criticized The One. While any such moves would face some opposition, it wouldn't exactly be fierce.

The link goes on:
both the FCC and Waxman are looking to licensing and renewal of licensing as a means of enforcing "Fairness Doctrine" type policies without actually using the hot-button term "Fairness Doctrine." ...One idea Waxman's committee staff is looking at is a congressionally mandated policy that would require all TV and radio stations to have in place "advisory boards" that would act as watchdogs to ensure "community needs and opinions" are given fair treatment. Reports from those advisory boards would be used for license renewals and summaries would be reviewed at least annually by FCC staff.
UPDATE: Waxman denies the report; see the note here.

Debbie Stabenow: bring back Fairness Doctrine or something like it; hold hearings on "accountability" - 02/05/09

From this comes this exchange from today:

BILL PRESS: Yeah, I mean look: [conservative radio hosts] have a right to say that. They’ve got a right to express that. But, they should not be the only voices heard. So, is it time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine?

SENATOR DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else – I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.

BILL PRESS: Can we count on you to push for some hearings in the United States Senate this year, to bring these owners in and hold them accountable?

SENATOR DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): I have already had some discussions with colleagues and, you know, I feel like that’s gonna happen. Yep.

Note that Stabenow's husband is in the radio business, including being a former Air America Radio executive.

Note also that it's counter-productive to say, "the Democrats want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine." Anyone who does that will play right into the hands of Obama's supporters: they'll point out that Obama is on record as opposing the FD.

The correct way for opponents to phrase that is something like: "the FD, or the FD with a new name, or something that would have the same impact as the FD but would use different tactics." Those opponents should take the time to hack-proof things to avoid problems.

UPDATE: Stabenow's husband Tom Athans seems to have dropped off the radar after the incident linked above, and it isn't clear what he's doing now. He might even still be with AAR, although there's nothing on their site that I could find to indicate that.

Obama's doublespeak on a "Full and Free Exchange of Ideas" in the media (not the Fairness Doctrine) - 01/27/09

The all-new whitehouse dot gov's section on technology reads like something out of 1984 (whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology):

Ensure the Full and Free Exchange of Ideas through an Open Internet and Diverse Media Outlets
...Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership: Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum.

He wants a free and fair exchange... by driving his opponents off the airwaves. What that boils down to is in effect bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, just not calling it that and using a different technique in order to roll back what the repeal of the FD allowed to happen: the flourishing of rightwing talk radio. Whatever technique they use, the upshot would be the same: using government power to control what can be broadcast over the airwaves and reducing the power of rightwing talkers such as Rush Limbaugh. Obama recently tried to divide Rush from the Republican Party RINOs in Congress ("You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done"), but that follows smearing him via an extraordinarily misleading ad and coming close to accusing him of inciting violence.

Note also that another mistake Obama's opponents make is to claim that he wants to bring back the FD, when it's only a few Democrats that want to do that. That allows Obama's supporters in the media to point out that Obama says he doesn't want to bring back the FD, taking the wind out of the sails of those opponents. Instead, they should phrase it as I did above.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA): bring back the Fairness Doctrine, and for cable and satellite too - 12/17/08

U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo - Democrat representing Palo Alto, California - says she'll work to bring back the Fairness Doctrine ("I'll work on bringing it back. I still believe in it"). Not only that, but she wants to take it to a new level and have it apply to cable and satellite services as well as over-the-air radio and TV:

"It should and will affect everyone."

What you'll hear is that she probably stands little chance of getting her way, which is probably true. You'll also hear that Barack Obama doesn't support the Fairness Doctrine, which is true. However, what you won't hear is that Obama supports "localism" and supports efforts to fight "media consolidation". Those two related items would have the same effect as the FD but without its negative connotations.

Marin Cogan/TNR's massive Fairness Doctrine strawman - 11/20/08

Marin Cogan of the New Republic offers "Bum Rush/Obama's secret plan to muzzle talk radio. Very, very secret." (tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=68d07041-7dbc-451d-a18a-752567145610). The supposed "reporter-researcher" looks for evidence that the Democrats want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine and can't find it. She therefore concludes that the Democrats don't want to try to muzzle rightwing talk radio.

Senator Bob Menendez to Neil Cavuto: "I hope you are not one of the ones forced off the air" - 11/03/08

[UPDATE: Apparently this is nothing, see below.]

Earlier today, Senator Bob Menendez appeared on the Fox's Neil Cavuto show and got into an argument with him about various Barack Obama plans.

The Non-Partisan Case Against Barack Obama - 10/29/08

You don't have to be a conservative or a Republican to be opposed to Barack Obama. Here are some of the reasons that almost anyone should oppose him:

Garrulous Pajamas Media paper tiger warns: mainstream media is biased (or something) - 10/24/08

Newspaperman Michael Malone takes to the esteemed web pages of Pajamas Media to offer "Editing Their Way to Oblivion: Journalism Sacrificed For Power and Pensions" (link).

Does Barack Obama support the First Amendment? (answer: well, it depends) - 09/25/08

Is Barack Obama a strong proponent of the First Amendment? Does he support free speech, even by those who strongly disagree with him? The answer is: not really.

I'll keep track in reverse chronological order (note, of course, that there are other examples throughout the time period):

Obama favored over McCain at NCLR meet, PWW reports (Fairness Doctrine) - 07/15/08

Comrade Rosalio Munoz from People's Weekly World reports from the National Council of La Raza convention where John McCain and Barack Obama spoke:
"Incredibly, McCain did not even address the issues of the war in Iraq or his policy on health care. On immigration it was more of the same: secure the borders and no stop to the raids," said Angela Sambrano, an NCLR board member and director of the National Alliance of Latin-American and Caribbean Communities.

...Irene Godinez, 26, of Raleigh, N.C., who leads statewide public policy advocacy for the organization El Pueblo, said she thought "McCain was diplomatic and stressed his priorities like border security, cushioning it by saying the immigrants were 'God's children.'"

But a significant language difference gained Godinez's attention. "I noticed McCain spoke of serving American children while Obama stressed everyone," she said. "This is important for me because our Legislature just passed a law excluding undocumented students from community colleges."
Whoa, score one for McCain! This one time he was able to differentiate between U.S. citizens and the rest of the world.
Health care advocate Teresa Quezada, vice president of Mujeres Latinas of Modesto, Calif., took a more critical tone... "McCain said he opposed immigrant bashing, but he stressed 'criminals and drugs' coming across the borders time after time. That's really bashing to me."
Obviously, having large numbers of people who think that it's "bashing" to worry about those who don't "just want to work" coming across our borders is not in the U.S.'s best interests.

The article then quotes someone named "Joshua Messiah", before confirming once again that the NCLR wants to push the Fairness Doctrine or similar in order to silence their critics:
Former [NCLR president Raul Yzaguirre] echoed the sentiment. "The issue of the media has to be a big issue for us like education, health care and housing," he said. "We have to confront Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, O'Reilly and right-wing radio."

He added that electing a Congress to return the public airwaves to serve all the people and not just the huge monopolies is a critical fight. "We have to find the ways to tell our story."
Even Frank Sharry admits that the print media is in their corner, aside from Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck most of those on television are some degree of massive/illegal immigration supporters, and the two highest-rated talk radio hosts (Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity) aren't exactly strong amnesty opponents. Apparently that's not enough for the NCLR.

John McCain, Barack Obama to appear at National Latino Congress? - 06/21/08

According to a Mexican newspaper [1], both John McCain and Barack Obama may be appearing at this year's National Latino Congress/National Latino Congreso (latinocongreso.org), something I have a bit of trouble believing.

Janet Murguia/National Council of La Raza: throw the First Amendment away to protect illegal immigration? - 02/01/08

The previously discussed article from Ariel Alexovich of the New York Times about the new "We Can Stop The Hate" effort from the National Council of La Raza contains the following:
[Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza] argued that hate speech should not be tolerated, even if such censorship were a violation of First Amendment rights:
Everyone knows t

One Bill Gil Cedillo brings back illegal aliens driver's licenses (January 2008 edition) - 01/12/08

From this:
Saying Friday's release of final regulations in the U.S. REAL ID Act clears the way, a Los Angeles Democrat said he will move ahead with a bill that would let illegal immigrants obtain driver's licenses.

State Sen. Gil Cedillo has previously proposed such legislation, but it has been vetoed repeatedly by Republican Gov.

Michael Gerson turns on Mike Huckabee, spins LULAC/Tyson Foods meeting - 12/14/07

Bush hack turned Washington Post hack Michael Gerson - at that link trying to push for Bush's immigration "reform" by calling the GOP base names - offers "Homespun Meets Hard-Line". Like yesterday's WaPo editorial he turns on Mike Huckabee because of the latter's new (supposed) tough stance on illegal immigration.

National Latino Congreso: "No Human Being is Illegal", Nativo Lopez, Gil Cedillo, Kucinich, Cuban Five, Fairness Doctrine, and more! - 10/07/07

The 2nd annual "National Latino Congreso" - a meeting of hundreds of "Latino organizational leaders, elected officials, and activists at all levels" is currently underway in Los Angeles (latinocongreso.org). Yesterday, Anna Gorman of the Los Angeles Times offered a whitewashed report here. Let's take a look at the groups involved and some of the loony resolutions that were passed. Expect the MSM coverage to be in line with Gorman's report: it will completely cover for far-left racial demagogues and avoid mentioning the loony resolutions.

Their "conveners' include:

* League of United Latin American Citizens
* Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (indirect link to the Mexican government)
* National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC)
* National Day Laborer Organizing Network
* Southwest Voter Registration Education Project
* William C. Velasquez Institute

Their "co-conveners" include the California Nurses Association, Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, and the Mexican American Political Association. Both the latter are associated with Nativo Lopez. They have 226 "endorsers", so discussing all of those would take a lot of time. But, one is the Communist Party USA, and most of the rest are far-left racial power groups.

The sheer number and sheer idiocy of the resolutions that were approved makes them likewise too difficult to cover in detail, however, they include:

* "No Human Being is Illegal" by Raul Anorve of "Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California" (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=41). If it were made U.S. law we would have literally open borders since we couldn't conduct immigration raids anymore and illegal aliens would have "full civil rights". It contains several grammatical mistakes and ends with:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the that organizations represented by delegates of the 2007 National Latino Congreso urge the United States pass socially just legalization, including full labor and civil rights protections and family reunification; to place a moratorium on immigration raids, detentions and deportations, as well as their eventual abolition; and... [the NLC urges] the United States demilitarize the border, immigration control, and end immigration-police collaboration; to support initiatives and policies that ensure healthy and stable communities, including living wage jobs for all immigrants, working people and people of color... [the NLC urges] the United States redistribute funding and resources away from prison-building, policing and criminalization to social, health and education services, family reunification, ending the backlog in visas and applications for permanent residency and citizenship, and full civil and labor rights protections for all persons, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

Bear in mind: they approved that and all the other resolutions to be discussed.

* "Resolution to Urge the Bush Administration to Halt Immigration Raids" by Pablo Martinez of New Mexico LULAC (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=22). It's moderate by comparison to the last, but that's not saying much.

* "Resolution to Urge Congress to Repeal 287 (g) and Restructure Federal Funding to Target Drug Enforcement Operations and Place a Civilian Oversight Committee" by ibid (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=21).

* "Fair, Humane and Rational Immigration Reform" by Nativo Lopez of Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=45). As you might guess, it's a very bad idea, and includes him calling for enactment of the "Unity Blueprint for Immigration Reform".

* "Resolution on the Five Cuban Political Prisoners" by Alicia Jrapko of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=12). When I said far-left, I meant it.

* "Support for Puerto Rico Self Determination" by Pablo Martinez of LULAC (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=96).

* "Unconstitutional Towing and Driver's License Resolution" by Gil Cedillo (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=26). It uses that possibly inaccurate recitation of events as a vehicle to support driver's licenses for illegal aliens; I wonder why they didn't just come right out and support that explicitly.

* "Decreasing the National Hispanic Dropout Rate Supporting the DREAM Act" by Luis Avila of the Somos America Coalition (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=129).

* "Restore the Fairness Doctrine Act", ibid, (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=126).

* "RESOLUTION TO DEMAND THAT THE U.S. SUPREME COURT HEAR THE CASE OF THE U.S. CITIZEN CHILDREN OF UNDOCUMENTED PARENTS" from Mr. Emma Lozano [sic] supposedly of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=125). She may be a part of that group, or that might be a mistake; the URL is to somosunpueblo (with an extra 's'):

[The NLC demands] that the U.S Supreme Court hear the Class Action Suit of the 5 million U.S. Citizen Children to prevent the enforcement of the removal of their parents fro the United States without first giving the children a fair opportunity to obtain a remedy for their hardship and redress for the implicit violation of their civil rights.

* 'Formal Position and Statement Denouncing Vigilantism of the "Minutemen Project"' by Yuri Jimenez of Kucinich For President 2008 (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=62):

WHEREAS the Minutemen Project encourages and incites hatred, violence, racism and discrimination in border States... THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the organizations represented by delegates of the 2007 National Latino Congreso formally denounce the Minutemen Project, and further declare their position that the Project promotes violence, hatred, racism and discrimination which are not representative traits of the honorable and just American society that has a rich legacy of immigration and inclusiveness.

The other Kucinich resolution approved condemned Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's illegal immigration hotline (latinocongreso.org/resolutions07approved.php?id=56).

LULAC, National Council of La Raza, "liberals", and the Fairness Doctrine - 07/24/07

When the left-wing support for free speech meets racial power groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Council of La Raza, watch out. Consider:
The nation's largest Hispanic advocacy group says it must come up with a strategy to combat "a wave of hate" its leaders say came from talk radio's efforts to sink the Senate's immigration bill.

Liberals: Wikipedia not biased, Conservapedia a joke - 02/24/07

Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum has started an alternative to Wikipedia called Conservapedia.

Needless to say, the usual "liberal" suspects are having a great deal of (what passes to them as) fun (link, link, link,

Al Gore: "I invented the First Amendment" - 10/06/05

Al Gore - in alternate reality #28B the President of the United States - recently preached about television, the Internet, newspapers, etc. etc. I could only take reading a few paragraphs of it, but testify Big Wooden Al, testify:
[...extols First Amendment...]

As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. -- including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed.

CNN aired Soros-funded documentary? - 05/22/05

Well, not exactly. Parse carefully Accuracy in Media's first paragraph from "AIM Report: CNN's George Soros-gate":
Clear and convincing evidence indicates that billionaire money manipulator and anti-conservative activist George Soros provided financing for research on a CNN documentary...
Remove the "research on" and you'd really have something.