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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

... (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...

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". That "review" would...

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

... amendment that would prevent the Fairness Doctrine from coming back (link). The problem is that both S.34 and S.62 use highly similar language and that's probably the language used in the amendment. And, those bills simply seek to prevent the return of the FD itself and say nothing about the things that Barack Obama and others in his administration support that would have the same effect as the...

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

... 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." That follows both David Axelrod and press secretary Robert Gibbs giving more equivocal statements. And, it follows another report claiming that Henry Waxman wants to bring back the Doctrine,...

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

... 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...

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

... 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...

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

... 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...

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

... 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...

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

... 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. What she fails to mention is that some Democrat-linked groups like the NCLR aren't that opposed to bringing back the Doctrine. But, more importantly, the Democrats have a nifty way to bring back the Fairness Doctrine in spirit through...

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

... Democratic leaders support the Fairness Doctrine and the like; for instance, the Center for American Progress supports more government control over radio station ownership. And, Obama himself has said that "hate" has no place on the airwaves. However, the "hate" part was a reference to Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh, both of whom he's also smeared. Whether Obama personally pushes it or not, the...

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

... he'll push something like the Fairness Doctrine. However, he or his surrogates will probably use Fox as a scapegoat when his policies meet resistance and those surrogates might take action against Fox in some way. * 10/8/08: ABC, NBC CBS, Time-Warner, CW, Fox, and others refuse to run ads for a WND book called "The Audacity of Deceit: Barack Obama's War on American Values". The ads may or may...

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

... 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...

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

... (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/...

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

... 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.