Nothing Fair About Bringing The Fairness Doctrine Back
from the misguided dept
One of the earliest lessons a lot of kids learn (though don’t necessarily accept) is that life isn’t fair, if for no other reason than what they think is fair is often wildly different than what their parents do. Now, once-failed and now long-shot presidential candidiate Dennis Kucinich says he’ll be heading up a new House subcommittee on issues around the FCC, that he might try to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine was an FCC rule, in force until 1987, that said broadcasters had a responsibility to discuss controversial issues of public importance, and to do so in a balanced manner that addressed differing points of view. While the goal of the doctrine might sound nice, the rule itself is a little troublesome, not least of which because it could be interpreted as violating the First Amendment (though the current FCC isn’t likely to care about that), but also because it holds broadcasters to a wholly subjective ideal. Who decides what’s fair? After all, one popular news network famously uses the tagline “fair and balanced”, when plenty of people feel it’s neither. The Fairness Doctrine also makes less and less sense in an age where the number of media outlets is proliferating. There’s no limit to the number of places that can provide news or opinion, and professionals and the public have more tools than ever at their disposal to tell their own stories and express their own viewpoints. To require certain media to provide an arbitrary level of “balance” makes less sense than encouraging people with disagreeing viewpoints to develop their own media outlets, whether it’s a blog, newsletter or even a cable TV channel. Kucinich says that “the media has become the servant of a very narrow corporate agenda” — but reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine would simply replace that corporate agenda with that of a political appointee, and that’s really not very fair.