A SUPPOSEDLY conservative US Senator from Missouri -- a man who claims to believe in limited government, understand the First Amendment to the Constitution and respect our nation's traditions of free enterprise -- insults all three with a birdbrained bill to establish a "fairness doctrine
" for social media companies.
One of those testifying last year at an April 2018 hearing before the House Committee on the Judiciary, TechFreedom president Berin Szokal, argued that the notion that the federal government "should police the 'neutrality' of websites is, in effect, a Fairness Doctrine
for the Internet." He observed that it was "ironic that such a proposal should come from any Republican," especially conservatives long known for opposition to the Fairness Doctrine
"for stifling conservative voices on radio and television." It was, as he testified, "President Reagan whose FCC finally abolished the Fairness Doctrine
and Reagan himself who vetoed Democratic legislation to revive the doctrine." As Szokal then put it:
During Wheeler's chairmanship--from 2013 to 2017 when he was appointed by President Barack Obama--the FCC dealt with issues such as Net Neutrality (which he calls by its official name: The Open Internet Rule), the Fairness Doctrine
, and Media Ownership.
Prior to the ban, there had been some FCC attempts to discourage cigarette ads -- but that had not been done through a ban on the smoking ads, but instead through the use of the Fairness Doctrine
, which was then still in existence.
And on still other occasions, it will mean pushing for structural changes, such as a return to the Fairness Doctrine
by broadcasters in the US.
But even on issues like antitrust enforcement and the long-dead, ill-advised Fairness Doctrine
, Republican politicians and commentators are abandoning positions they've held for decades.
Some analysts have suggested (Cushion, 2016; Pickard, 2017b) that one contributing factor was a lack of public interest protections that can offset news media's commercial excesses--protections such as the long-defunct Fairness Doctrine
, one of the most famous and controversial media policies ever enacted in the United States.
Trump may have been referring to the "Fairness Doctrine
" that was designed to ensure broadcasters present opposing viewpoints about public issues.
Some lawmakers on the left have broached the idea, arguing that the demise of the Fairness Doctrine
has led to the explosion of volatile talk-radio programming and today's partisan rancor.
THE TERM "Fairness Doctrine
" exemplifies what author George Orwell called "newspeak." It uses language to mask the deleterious effects of its purported meaning.
But, believing also in the fairness doctrine
and the concept of equal time, I want to give the Giants their due.
In 1987, the Federal Communications Commission voted to abolish the Fairness Doctrine
, which required radio and television stations to present balanced coverage of controversial issues.