Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Fairness Doctrine Is History

The last vestiges of the the Fairness Doctrine are being expunged from the rulebooks.

The FCC gave the coup de grace to the fairness doctrine Monday as the commission axed more than 80 media industry rules.

Earlier this summer FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski agreed to erase the post WWII-era rule, but the action Monday puts the last nail into the coffin for the regulation that sought to ensure discussion over the airwaves of controversial issues did not exclude any particular point of view. A broadcaster that violated the rule risked losing its license.

It’s one of those rules that in theory sounds great, but in practical application is a pain in the ass. I know this from personal experience, having been — however briefly — in the radio news business in the late 1970’s: we had to keep a stopwatch on opinion pieces, be it an editorial or an interview, and offer equal time to whoever might disagree with it. The rule didn’t apply to anyone other than over-the-air broadcasters.

With the explosion of the internets and cable, where the doctrine didn’t apply, it had become a relic, along with the requirement that in order to get a broadcasting license, either as a DJ or news reader, you had to know Morse Code.

It also takes away a boogedy-boogedy talking point from the right-wingers who were all convinced that the inauguration of Barack Obama would bring the doctrine back and make radio talkers actually accountable for their blather.