Fairness doctrine wasn't fair

October 16, 2012 


In his op-ed opinion piece on "fairness" (In Focus, Sept. 30), Richard Badalamente seemed to mourn the passing of the Federal Communication Commission's fairness doctrine, as if that were the end of fairness in broadcasting.

While it's true that the doctrine dated back to 1949, it didn't have teeth until a key Supreme Court decision in 1969. Eighteen years later, the court scrapped it as unconstitutional. I was working in radio during some of those years, and I know from firsthand experience that the fairness doctrine was a failed policy that stifled free speech.

Under the premise that the airwaves belong to the public, the rule required broadcasters to present both sides of a controversial issue. While that may seem fair on the surface, stations were required to give equal time to anyone who opposed a viewpoint expressed on the air. As a result, we avoided controversy. Who wants to air an interview with a city councilman if it means that any nutjob who has a bone to pick with the city can demand equal time on the air?

Stations tried not to broadcast anything provocative, and the result was bland reporting with no analysis or opinion.

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