The Corner

Paving the Way for the Fairness Doctrine?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering reviving a regulatory mandate requiring TV broadcasters to maintain a physical presence in each city in which they broadcast.  This, despite the massive technological evolution that has made it possible — and more efficient — for stations to locate studios in remote locations without sacrificing a focus on community content. My colleague Cord Blomquist points out how ludicrously luddite this is:

Some people are concerned about a lack of quality in local news coverage, but the truth is that people have greater access to diverse news outlets than ever before. The Internet didn’t exist 20 years ago when these FCC rules were removed.

Cord also points out the comparison to the Fairness Doctrine over at the Tech Liberation Front:

Where the Fairness Doctrine chilled all speech, Localism will compel speech of which FCC Commissioners like Copps approve. In a world of limited broadcast hours, compelling one sort of speech means sacrificing speech of another, effectively censoring speech.

CEI has submitted a comment to the FCC:

“Rather than pursuing additional levels of bureaucratic oversight or reverting to decades-old regulatory regimes, the FCC should pursue aggressive deregulation of the terrestrial radio marketplace. By allowing more broadcasters to compete—especially low-powered stations—the marketplace will cater to local news and civic programming as it has shown to be a profit maker for local broadcasters.”

The proposed FCC rules would place broadcasters under intense scrutiny when companies seek renewal of their broadcasting licenses.  The FCC would be able to revoke stations’ licenses if they cannot demonstrate a commitment to localism. This procedure would apply to all stations, even those that focus on entirely different genres such as music or sports.

The FCC won’t stop here.  It may require other burdensome, invasive, and nonsensical mandates, such as convening community advisory boards to review content and advise broadcasters as to which local issues deserve focus.

A taste of things to come?


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