Updating the fairness doctrine


In 1982 WTVH-TV in Syracuse, New York, ran ads promoting the Nine Mile II nuclear power plant as a “sound investment for New York’s future.” The Syracuse Peace Council asked for time to point out that the plant, originally budgeted at 0 million, had by then cost .1 billion and was far from a sound investment. The Court reached far beyond the limits of the particular case and asked the FCC to determine whether the Fairness Doctrine restricts the right of free speech of broadcasters.

The station appealed to the FCC, which ruled that WTVH must air the opposing point of view. The Reagan Administration, which has always opposed the Fairness Doctrine, was waiting for this opportunity.

Actually, the Fairness Doctrine did not require equal time (Extra! Fisher is making a common error, confusing the Doctrine with the FCC’s Equal Time rule, which is still in force, but applies solely to political campaigns and candidates.

Additionally, opinionated talk radio was not “a relatively new concept” in 1989 (Extra! Indeed, opinionated talk radio, which was always dominated by right-wing personalities, was born in 1960, and flourished in local markets under the Fairness Doctrine, which wasn’t jettisoned until 1987.

Jonathan Puth is one of the first people to experience Life after the Fairness Doctrine. The bottling industry had budgeted million to fight the deposit.

The repeal came just before a referendum in Washington D. Puth, the director of a citizen’s group favoring the bottle bill, had “a cash balance hovering around zero”.

In “The Making of Sean Hannity: How a Long Island kid learned to channel red-state rage,” the Post’s Marc Fisher reported: In 1990, Bill Dunnavent was trying to bring a relatively new concept to northern Alabama — highly opinionated political talk radio.

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In reality, talk radio owed its rapid growth to the emergence of two new technologies: satellite transmission, which made it possible for local shows to go national; and 1-800 telephone numbers, which permitted shows to take callers from all over the country (Extra! That’s why talk radio was growing just as fast or faster before the Fairness Doctrine was jettisoned as it was afterwards.

In August 1987 the FCC repealed the Doctrine, claiming that it was unconstitutional, although the Supreme Court had ruled unanimously in 1969 that the Fairness Doctrine was not only constitutional but essential to democracy.

The public airwaves should not just express the opinions of those who can pay for air time; they must allow the electorate to be informed about all sides of controversial issues.

Most of those complaints were settled then and there, usually by the simple provision of time for another point of view.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) came into a case only rarely, when the broadcaster and the citizens could not agree.

But under the Fairness Doctrine he had convinced radio stations to give him 1/2 to 1/3 as much time as the indudstry had bought.

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