Ding dong, the Doctrine


Wiley Rein legal eagles Kathleen Kirby & Kathryne Dickerson recently collaborated on a blog post in which they declared that the latest meeting between the Fairness Doctrine and the regulation shredder has left it “really most sincerely dead.” But that doesn’t mean it might not come back. But if it does, it won’t be coming from a federal agency.

Kirby and Dickerson note that it has taken quite some time to finally get the Doctrine scrubbed out of the body of federal regulation. They note broadcaster requests to get rid of personal attack and political editorial rules back in 1980.

The FCC said in 1987 that its enforcement of the Doctrine was at an end, and immediately there was a move in Congress to codify it – it actually made it to the Oval Office where it came to its demise following a meeting with the veto pen of Ronald Reagan. In 1991, the threat of a veto from George H.W. Bush stopped another attempt in its tracks.

Lately, we’ve heard calls for its reinstatement from time to time, but they’ve been lonely solitary calls, and none of the recent cases have been able to generate any momentum. Nonetheless, Kirby and Dickerson say that whether the Doctrine springs back to life of not “remains to be seen.”

RBR-TVBR observation: A lot of things are said in the halls of Congress. A lot of bills are introduced, too. A lot of bills are introduced despite the fact that they have zero chance of getting a hearing, much less a vote. Even if you believe in the intent of the Fairness Doctrine, it is impossible to enforce and most definitely chills speech. It has been opposed by members of both parties. It isn’t likely to ever come back, and it certainly isn’t coming back any time soon.