The Fairness Doctrine Is Bad News

Below is my column in The Hill about the attempts to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine and to extend it to cable programming.
Here’s the pillar:

Hale responded,”No, I consider the senators and pray for the country.” Many of us have felt exactly the same way, particularly with today’s free-for-all environment on Capitol Hill.
The most recent reason behind a Hale prayer would be the need to resurrect the fairness doctrine, an effort to govern media that thankfully died in 1987 under the weight of its own absurdity. Adopted in 1949, what became known as the equity doctrine necessary television and radio outlets to offer conflicting perspectives on any controversy. That’s only fair, fans intoned, and that wouldn’t want equity?
In reality, the philosophy was far more effective at killing than simply balancing coverage. From the 1980s, press figures complained that the philosophy often resulted in dropping stories instead of committing the time to broadcast different sides. Furthermore, a review showed the philosophy was difficult to enforce and highly subjective in its program. The greatest problem was that it constituted direct government regulation of the media. The Constitution states there may be no law”abridging the free media,” and a lot of us concur with Justice Hugo Black’s view when he stated:”I consider’no law abridging’ to imply’no law abridging. ”’
The philosophy was finally, mercifully rescinded in 1987, but it’s now back with a vengeance. Some members of Congress are calling for a range of regulations of media and the internet, including requirements for censorship of”disinformation” on topics ranging from election fraud to climate shift to sex identification. and Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) , lately printed cable suppliers to push content controls over news media and suggested they need to prevent audiences from having access to networks like Fox News. , have referred to these content controllers as part of a new equity philosophy.
Such speech and media controls have turned into a primary Democratic talking stage. It sometimes seems that, to be innovative, you need to be regressive on topics like free speech and the free media. Together with the ascension of conservative networks like Fox, many are requiring a redefinition of our values to allow increased regulation of speech and press.
Really, limiting such rights has become framed as a democratic merit. Others are more direct: A pillar on the liberal website Daily Kos celebrated the end of their late Rush Limbaugh’s radio show however noticed fact that”there was a time when he wouldn’t have managed to exist” It disregarded those a fairness doctrine as”racists, bigots, antisemites, and other US brands of filth.” (Luckily for the Daily Kos, it faces no requirements of equal time or balance.)
There remain substantial questions within the doctrine’s constitutionality, despite its being upheld in 1969. Moreover, much has changed since the court, in upholding the philosophy, employed a”lack principle” to what was back then a considerably smaller media marketplace, such as just a few broadcast networks. That reasoning is no more compelling with today’s diversity of media outlets, such as cable programming. Moreover, despite fewer media outlets in the 1980s, the philosophy did little real good in promoting real balance.
What people view as”balance” is highly subjective. However, each of the networks highlight conflicting viewpoints. In some cases, this balance is advised. For instance, the Washington Post has featured Jennifer Rubin as its”conservative opinion author” despite a very lengthy litany of contentious statements from conservatives and Republicans, for example her proposal that the Republican Party should be burnt to the ground. All of these outlets, for example, cable networks, can assert such balance under the fairness doctrine.
Liberals aren’t the ones calling to resurrect a fairness doctrine; Republicans have known for a comparable philosophy for the net. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Has proposed a law to combat growing internet censorship by requiring companies to receive Federal Trade Commission certificate of the political”neutrality.” That, clearly, is a tad too much”equity” for many others, that denounced the idea as a denial of free speech.
There is an alternative, which is true neutrality. The fairness doctrine can be abandoned from the crypt along with other dead media-control failures. Congress can then give Big Tech companies a easy alternative: Return to being impartial platforms for communications, or even reduce your immunity protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Big Tech formerly painted itself as the equivalent of the telephone company, and so sought protections as impartial suppliers of communication forums allowing individuals to willingly associate and socialize. It then begun to participate in enlarging, contradictory actions of censorship. However, it still wishes to remain protected as if it were impartial despite actively modifying content. We would not tolerate a telephone company operator clipping into a phone to say the firm didn’t approve of a statement that was simply made, or clipping the line for those who didn’t voice accepted positions.
That is the reason I call myself an”internet originalist.” True neutrality leaves to people to pick who they see, see or converse with at the press. It’s the original equity doctrine — and it was fair because it was liberated. We can go back to allowing politicians dictate that can speak and what can be stated. As Hale may note, however, we ought to begin with a prayer.
You can find his upgrades online @JonathanTurley.