Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fairness Doctrine Electric Boogaloo 

The Federalist Society as a very nice primer on the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine is something of a boogie man used by conservatives (particularly talk radio) to whip up support among conservative Republicans and Libertarians--a boogie man because there is little reason to expect that it will ever be reinstated. Instead, it seems to me to be another indicator of the problems within and among conservatives in the US to find legitimate issues with which to rile Americans toward their side.

The Fairness Doctrine, which was designed to force broadcasters to broadly explore all angles of cultural, political, social, and religious issues, was put in place in the 1940s by the FCC and lasted until the mid-1980s, finally falling victim to a Reagan veto of a bill supported by congressional Democrats, who attempted to override a FCC decision to abandon it.

Democrats have, from time to time, attempted to reinstall the Fairness Doctrine, not because there is a real need to force commercial broadcasters to offer more diverse and heterogeneous programming, but because the moment that the Fairness Doctrine was vetoed, political talk radio (read: Rush Limbaugh) exploded across the country, and for Democrats, neutralizing talk radio is one more way to make politics difficult for Republicans.


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