Commissioner: Fairness Doctrine Could Lead To Government Regulation
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell says that the potential re-introduction of the Fairness Doctrine under a Democratic administration could lead to “government dictating content policy" on the Internet.
The Fairness Doctrine was an FCC regulation mandating broadcasters afford time to opposing viewpoints. It was abolished in 1987 by the Supreme Court after it was found to be harmful to journalistic freedom and anathema to the First Amendment.
Speaking to the Business and Media Institute, McDowell stated that the Fairness Doctrine could return under a different name and be tagged on to the net neutrality debate, opening the door for the government to regulate content on the Web.
McDowell said the net neutrality effort could win the support of “a few isolated conservatives” who may not fully realize the long-term effects of government regulation.
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“I think the fear is that somehow large corporations will censor their content, their points of view, right,” McDowell said. “I think the bigger concern for them should be if you have government dictating content policy, which by the way would have a big First Amendment problem," said McDowell.
“Then, whoever is in charge of government is going to determine what is fair, under a so-called ‘Fairness Doctrine,’ which won’t be called that – it’ll be called something else,” McDowell said. “So, will Web sites, will bloggers have to give equal time or equal space on their Web site to opposing views rather than letting the marketplace of ideas determine that?” he added.
The reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine has strong support amongst top Democratic powerbrokers and an effort to push it through under a different name is expected should Barack Obama secure the presidency.
In June, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that the Democratic caucus was interested in bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. Senators Richard Durbin and John Kerry have also publicly supported its return.
Neo-Con radio talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh have long railed against the Fairness Doctrine, but its impact would be felt by all alternative news outlets, who would be forced to devote some of their time to parroting government talking points while enduring constant harassment and threat of closure.
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