The Corner


Try Reading about the Fairness Doctrine Before You Demand Its Return

(Adrees Latif/Reuters)

I’m not surprised people disagree with me, and I’m not surprised that no one knows everything there is to know. But I am mind-boggled by allegedly intellectual and thoughtful public figures who don’t bother to do a bit of basic Googling or research before throwing out a radical, sweeping proposal that directly contradicts the Constitution.

MSNBC’s Anand Giridharadas echoes Max Boot in calling for the Fairness Doctrine to be reinstated and applied to Fox News Channel.

Why? Because Fox News Channel is a cable channel and doesn’t use public airwaves and thus wouldn’t be subject to the Fairness Doctrine as written, even if it were reinstated. Because the Federal Communications Commission dropped the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 having determined that the doctrine was stifling discussion of current events instead of facilitating it. (Networks avoided discussing or covering certain controversial topics because they didn’t want to deal with Fairness Doctrine complaints.) Because the FCC has consistently said since then that it doesn’t want to go anywhere near censoring or restricting news broadcasts.

Because Justice William Douglas wrote in the majority opinion of Terminiello v. City of Chicago that

freedom of speech, though not absolute, (Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire supra, 315 U.S. at pages 571-572, 62 S.Ct. at page 769) is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. . . . There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups.

And because this current Supreme Court is very, very, very likely to find FCC restrictions on what Fox News Channel or any other news channel says to be a blatant and galling violation of the First Amendment.

That’s why, Anand. Glad I could help you out.


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