Fairness Doctrine Talk Heats Up
November 6, 2008

With the Presidential election over, discussion of the potential fallout as it pertains to the broadcasting industry as begun. The "Fairness Doctrine" has been rumored to return into play, over two decades after the FCC rejected it as unconstitutional. President-elect Barack Obama is on the record as saying he has no plans to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, but other top Democrats could be.

In an interview yesterday with Fox News, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that those who want to give the Commission more regulatory powers over "pornography" do not want them to get involved for fairness and balance in broadcasting.

The comments from Schumer caused concern in some circles, with the National Religious Broadcasters issuing a statement, according to Broadcasting & Cable. "I was stunned by Senator Schumer’s suggestion that by keeping filth off the air, the federal government has somehow become empowered to take over the control of legitimate programming content of broadcasters," said Craig Parshall, SVP and general counsel for the NRB. "That paints a very grim picture for the future of broadcasting freedoms, particularly for Christian broadcasters."

Additionally, CSNNews.com reports that Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) also spoke in favor of a potential return to the Fairness Doctrine at the Democratic Senatorial Committee election party on Tuesday night. "Well first of all, I think that a station should have a balanced approach. I think they are doing their listeners a service when they provide all sides to an issue, but quite frankly, there is more variety today than we’ve had in recent years," Cardin said. "We have a lot of radio stations that are providing all different types of points of view, and I think there’s a lot of self-selection here. There’s a lot of listeners who are saying, ‘Look, we are going to listen to stations that are balanced,’ so I think the market in some respects is working this out."

Another concern with a return of the doctrine could be its application online. Earlier this summer, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell told the Business & Media Institute that the return of the Fairness Doctrine could potentially be tied in with the net neutrality battle, resulting in the government regulating content on the Web.

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