Friday, November 21, 2008

Fairness Is Totally Gay

Apparently some patches of the conservative quilt have gotten their stitches all in a knot at the possibility of a revival of the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC policy ditched back in the Reagan years that required broadcasters to offer opposing viewpoints in any opinions programming. Honestly, with the exception of the broadcasters themselves, I'm not sure why anyone would care about this. Honestly, this would just be forcing a little journalistic integrity on news broadcasters, which would create more work for networks having to ensure their programming meets the rule. It'd actually be good for our intellectually lazy society to be exposed to multiple viewpoints instead of the conservatives being able to hide out at Fox News while the liberals head to some liberal rag like the New York Times (where they can read Bill Kristol) to get their beliefs reaffirmed. I just don't think it's a practical policy. What if Keith Olbermann says something that isn't all that liberal? Does his network have to rush out to find Kucinich to fill a half-hour Fairness Doctrine liberal rant? What about the Green Party or the Libertarians? What if their viewpoints aren't being expressed fairly?

But what's really bizarre about the recent flurry of fuss about the Fairness Doctrine is that many conservatives seemed convinced that it's a way to force their point of view off the airwaves. I'm not sure how one could logically reach this assumption. Sure, Fox News would be forced to add a few guys to their lineups to counterbalance their heavily conservative-leaning lineup of political commentators, but it wouldn't force them to dump their conservative viewpoints entirely. Sure, you may end up dumping a couple of the less popular talking heads to make room for the damned hippies, but Bill O'Reilly wouldn't be going anywhere. More than likely, they'd just turn some of their one-perspective shows into dueling heads or panel formats, which would fit the Fairness Doctrine to a tee by my understanding.

But seriously, if the conservative voices were forced out under the Fairness Doctrine, the liberal voices wouldn't be allowed to replace them. What's the fuss? Want to fight against its resurrection? Go for it. I'm sure you'd find bipartisan support based just on the impracticability of it all. Think that it'll somehow be used by the rest of us to force your voice off the air and you're just a bit touched in the head.

As for that link, I don't know if it's any good or not. I didn't actually read the article. I just skimmed the first paragraph to make sure it's what I'm talking about and copied in the URL. I've just read three articles about the damned fairness doctrine in the past two week and how there's a near panic among certain groups about the possibility of its resurrection lately.


Courtney said...

Wouldn't the so-called Fairness Doctrine also infringe on freedom of the press?

Mickey said...

And how do you decide what is "fair"? Do you draw up guidelines as to exactly what a liberal can say and what a conservative can say? And what about people who go both ways? Won't they throw off the balance?

Jacob said...

Courtney: I'm kind of on the fence on that. I don't see it as preventing any views from being heard, which was the whole point of the right to freedom of the press. Technically, you are forcing them to potentially publish/air something they wouldn't normally do, but I see the rules preventing profanity and nudity as being much more restrictive to freedom of the press.

However, I do see it as really unecessary. I don't think this would even apply to the cable news networks. It'd apply to ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS and radio stations. I think some local affiliates of the network previously known as the WB also have local news broadcasts, so it'd apply to them if they actually had any opinion programming (which most don't). Cable networks are totally off the hook on that because the FCC only has domain over stations that use the airwaves. Actually, I think that's where the conservative conspiracy theorists are coming from. Fox News wouldn't be affected, but all of those conservative talk radio stations would be. Liberal talk radio is virtually non-existant. This law would force them to include liberal programming to balance it out. It still wouldn't silence the conservative voice, though.

But then my post wasn't about the right or wrong of the Fairness Doctrine. If I were in a position to choose, I'd leave it dead. Also, if it were actually a legitimate threat to return, I would actively oppose it. I just see the apparent uproar over something that could happen (and that Obama has said he opposes) is a little silly. Shouldn't Republicans have more serious political concerns to deal with at the moment than the potential for an annoying FCC rule returning?

Julie said...

If you're too lazy to read the article you linked to, I'm sure as hell not going to do it for you.

Chris said...

Damn, Julie makes a good point. But alas, I've already done it.

So the AJC column you linked to says basically this: There's no actual movement to revive the Fairness Doctrine. It's simply a made-up issue by the conservative talk radio guys to stoke the paranoia on which their listeners thrive.

I can't say whether that's true. Haven't read much about it. But I agree it seems like a pointless regulation, especially now when we've got so many sources of news and information aside from broadcasting (e.g. newspapers, cable TV and, oh yeah, the Internet). I don't think we're facing the danger of some viewpoints not being able to find a venue.