Sunday, 22. February 2009 10:19
There’s a discussion of the “Fairness Doctrine” that has started over on the Science of Politics forum.Â The “Fairness Doctrine” imposes a requirement of ideological balance on those who use the public airwaves, though its application was limited to radio do to the fact it is a ‘limited’ medium (see the Supreme Court cases on this subject).
The Fairness Doctrine was always of dubious constitutional status despite the earlier USSC decisions upholding its implementation.Â Furthermore, the explosion of media and mediums for them may have rendered the primary justification for the FD moot.Â While some Democrats have suggested reinstituting the doctrine, any attempt to do so would face legal challenge.Â I believe the FD was unconstitutional in 1937 when it was created.Â However, given the nature of the USSC decisions upholding it, a court could rule the FD unconstitutional today without overturning those previous decisions (which I believe to have been wrongly decided).Â
Recently President Obama cleared up apparent ambiguity as to his stance by stating explictly that he is opposed to the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine, and support for the doctrine even among Democrats seems to be weak.Â Ironically, the Fairness Doctrine has been most frequently mentioned by conservative radio show hosts,Â who have usedÂ it as a cudgel to attack the Democrats.Â
So, if there was any question before, the fact the Obama administration has stated its active opposition probably and effectively quashes any actual effort to reimpose the doctrine.Â Indeed, it is a Republican (Jim DeMint) who is currently trying to force a vote on the FD in Congress…which tends to indicate that the Republicans feel this is a winning issue for them.Â We are unlikely to see a concerted effort by Congress to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine, and any such reimposition is likely to fail constitutional scrutiny, either through the court overturning its previous precedents on the FD or by distinguishing those precedents as outdated given the changing technological enviornment and the information revolution.Â