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Fairness Doctrine Is Really Dead

Milwaukee license renewals at issue as commission rejects Zapple Doctrine arguments

The FCC has rejected two radio license renewal challenges and in the process, reminds broadcasters the Zapple Doctrine, a remnant of the defunct Fairness Doctrine, is also really dead.

The Zapple Doctrine required that broadcast stations that give air time to the supporters of one candidate in an election give time to the supporters of competing candidates as well, according to Wilkinson Barker Knauer attorney David Oxenford. And, even though the Fairness Doctrine has been defunct for years, various manifestations have reappeared at times, he blogs.

The complaints brought by the Media Action Center and several individuals argued that license renewals should be denied for two Milwaukee stations: Journal Broadcasting’s WTMJ(AM) and Clear Channel’s WISN(AM). The complaints disagreed with programming decisions the stations made during a recall election for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2012. They used the Zapple Doctrine to make their case.

The commission rejected the complaints and granted the license renewals.