Could reinstated doctrine be contagious?


That’s what Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell told a gathering at the Business and Media Institute. He noted the worries of conservative Talkers that the Fairness Doctrine may be reinstated, and suggested that those who would do so think twice, or they may find themselves subject to the same speech constraints on their website. He thought it might even show up as a renamed element in network neutrality language. Although it hasn’t come up at all so far at the FCC, he wonders if it might not gather steam depending on the results of the 2008 elections.

“There is a discussion of it in Congress,” McDowell told BMI. “I think it won’t be called the Fairness Doctrine by folks who are promoting it. I think it will be called something else and I think it’ll be intertwined into the net neutrality debate.”

RBR/TVBR observation: The Fairness Doctrine is unworkable. That is its biggest problem. It seems to presume that there are two sides to every question, when in fact there can be many sides. For example, let’s say you want to go on the air and support a certain presidential candidate. Following the Fairness Doctrine would not be a simple matter of letting somebody come on the air and support the “other” candidate. We just read somewhere that there are 11 registered candidates for president even as we speak. We know of Barack Obama, John McCain, Ralph Nader, Bob Barr and Cynthia McKinney. We haven’t the foggiest notion who the other six might be. But even if we limit it to the five we know, we have just created an unworkable broadcast scenario.

That said, it seems that most of the Fairness ruckus on the Hill has been drummed up by Mike Pence (R-IN). It is true that Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced a bill quite awhile back on the topic, and that there has been occasional lip service from other Democrats, but there does not seem to be any organized effort to reinstate the Doctrine, and Slaughter’s bill has gone precisely nowhere.

If they do try to bring it back into existence, a couple of halfway decent 1st Amendment attorneys should be able to tie it up in court for years, and kill it there.