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Fairness Doctrine Is Really, Really Gone

Chairman wipes it and 82 other ‘outdated’ broadcast rules off commission books

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has eliminated 83 outdated and obsolete media-related rules. But the one that gets the screamer headlines is the Fairness Doctrine.

The chairman has been “reforming” the commission’s processes over time; he says that includes wiping outdated rules off the books to reflect changes in technology. Genachowski previously had said he wanted to strike the Fairness Doctrine from the rulebook by the end of August.

The main thrust of the doctrine was to ensure that viewers and listeners were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints. But the FCC has not enforced or applied the Fairness Doctrine for two decades.

President Reagan abolished it in 1987. Two years later a federal appeals court upheld the FCC’s finding that the Fairness Doctrine chilled speech and that the rationale for the doctrine — the scarcity of broadcast facilities — was no longer applicable. The rule was seen as outdated in an age when radio and television audiences have many media choices.

But the FCC rulebook hadn’t kept pace, a fact of concern to some critics who believe that liberal lawmakers would like to revive the policy, in one form or another. They pressed the FCC to remove the rule language completely.

The FCC also deleted the so-called “broadcast flag,” cable programming service tier rate and certain other broadcast applications and proceedings rules.

The elimination of these rules adds to 50 others already deleted as obsolete. The agency announced it has “significantly” reduced its backlogs, including a 30% reduction in broadcast licensing applications and an 89% reduction in satellite licensing applications. The FCC is now looking to eliminate 25 sets of data collections from industry that it says are no longer necessary.


Religious Broadcasters Still Wary of Fairness Doctrine (B&C)