Fairness Doctrine Dead: Misconceptions Live On

The FCC announced it was doing away with dozens of rules today, including the Fairness Doctrine–perhaps one of the most widely misunderstood media policy concepts of all time. As the Hollywood Reporter put it: Bound to get the most attention though is ditching the Fairness Doctrine, an idea that was meant to force radio broadcasters into offering as much left wing political content as they offer right wing commentary. This is the Fairness Doctrine as imagined by right-wing talk show hosts as a way to scare listeners. Rush Limbaugh called it the “Hush Rush Bill,” and claimed that it would […]


Support Wanes for Caricature of Fairness Doctrine

Politico reported (2/16/09) that a new poll shows that support for the Fairness Doctrine has dropped. Unfortunately, the policy described in the poll question bears no relationship to the Fairness Doctrine as it actually existed. The Rasmussen polling firm asked respondents whether “the government should require all radio stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary.” But the Fairness Doctrine never called for equal time for any points of view; it actually required, as codified in a 1959 amendment to the Communications Act of 1934, that “a broadcast licensee shall afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of conflicting […]


Fearing Fairness–When You Don’t Know What It Is

After giving a dubious account of the causes of the Democrats’ 1994 electoral disaster, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson (11/14/08) provides an inaccurate description of the Fairness Doctrine, which he calls a federal regulation (overturned by the Reagan administration in 1987) requiring broadcast outlets to give equal time to opposing political viewpoints. Under this doctrine, three hours of Rush Limbaugh on a radio station would have to be balanced by three hours of his liberal equivalent. This may sound fair and balanced. But it is a classic case where the “unintended consequences” are so obvious that those consequences must be […]


Right-Wing Media’s ‘Fairness’ Bogeyman

News Corpse blogger Mark Howard chronicles (11/12/08) how “pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, etc.” are not just “on the wrong side of public opinion in the recently concluded election,” but “are also losing listeners and viewers who are rapidly awakening to the dishonesty and hostility wafting through the conservative media’s airwaves”: In a feat of denial, though, the conservative punditry is barreling headlong into a campaign of fear-mongering and frightful tales of censorship. They believe, and hope to persuade others, that Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress are surreptitiously plotting to reinstate the dreaded Fairness Doctrine that […]