Friday, February 20, 2009

Fairness Doctrine vs First Amendment

How do those in favor of the so-called fairness doctrine reconcile it with the Constitution's First Amendment which says in part that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."
The government is explicitly prohibited from playing a role in refereeing among those who speak or seek to speak. We are, after all, dealing with political speech -- which, as the Framers understood, cannot be left to the government to police.
If the federal government attempts to control the airwaves through it's FCC, which it may try without congressional or executive action.In Adam Thierer's piece Why the Fairness Doctrine is Anything But Fair, he examines three premise/reality combinations:

Faulty Premise #1: The "scarce" amount of spectrum space requires oversight by federal regulators.
Reality: Although the spectrum is limited, the number of broadcasters in America has continuously increased.

Faulty Premise #2: "Fairness" or "fair access" is best determined by FCC authorities.
Reality: FCC bureaucrats can neither determine what is "fair" nor enforce it.

Faulty Premise #3: The fairness doctrine guarantees that more opinions will be aired.
Reality: Arbitrary enforcement of the fairness doctrine will diminish vigorous debate.

New media is one of the great levelers in our modern society. If I don't like a particular TV program, I can turn the channel. If I do not like a particular radio program or host, I am not being forced to listen to it. If I don't want to read a particular periodical or newspaper, I don't have to buy it.

Only a deaf dolt would disagree with fact that mainstream media leans left. Conservative media is mainly relegated to AM radio. Even more center-oriented cable news programming like from Fox continue to trump the left-leaning cable networks like CNN and MSNBC. Few under 40 that watch ABC, NBC or CBS news, including those superficial, investigative news programs like 60 Minutes, 20/20 and Dataline.

I asked my students last night how many of them subscribe to a newspaper? None. In fact, I just canceled my last local newspaper subscription (Daily Harald) -- I just lost interest especially after they canceled our weekly supplemental paper covering just our schools and neighborhoods.

The Internet is the great leveler: for every Townhall, there's a Huffington Post. I am not forced to read what I don't want to read; there's plenty too chose from.

Any attempt to silence the airwaves is a clear violation of our first amendment. Just because liberal news media is losing to conservative does not justify suppressing legislative or FCC action. Let the free market dictate.

When it comes down to it, the fairness doctrine is nothing more than another anti-free market effort, more akin to Communist media control than not.


mfmosman said...

Since you're talking about the Fairness Doctrine, you should be fair. And it's only fair to note:

1. This is not a Democratic notion -- it's an FCC notion, that is as old as Section 315 of the Communications Act of 1937. You were silent on whether or not the whole idea of the Fairness Doctrine was political; one could assume, if they weren't careful, that you thought it was.

2. President Obama specifically opposes it, just as Ronald Reagan did when it passed both houses in 1987.

3. Your statement that it's completely obvious that the mainstream media leans left... isn't that obvious. Fox? Right (not center, c'mon). MSNBC? Left. HLN? Right. CNBC? Almost all financial news, and I'd say center on that. CNN? Center left. And as you pointed out correctly: nobody watches the old mainstream channels anymore.

On the analysis, though: dead on. The Fairness Doctrine is unnecessary and potentially harmful if enforced. said...

mfmosman, you sound like a moderate influenced by the left.

The fairness doctrine is politcal and the FCC isn't driving it. Get your facts in line. The FCC is only the tool to enforce the doctrine. The fairness doctrine is strictly driven by the left.

Next all the cable news networks have their editorial shows and there for can lean whatever direction they like. However on hard news reporting Fox alone tries to tell both sides of the story. That is magnified by their editiorial shows, which always have a fair balance of reporters from both sides of the political specturm.

On the other hand Olberman as an example (an angry liberal) only has guest that agree with him. O'Reilly on the other hand always has guests and regular reporters that don't agree with his point of view. To top that off I wouldn't call O'Reilly a conservative. Hannity yes, O'Reilly seems to be a little more centered and to some degree libertarian.

Make no mistake. Obama doesn't oppose the fairness doctrine in his heart. He only opposes it politically because even the everyday common liberals understand free speach.

You belief that Fox leans right has more to do with the mainstream media beating that opinion into your head. MSNBC and CNBC are clearly left as is the Clinton News Network....CNN. All the regular networks are left also. Fox may appear to the right but that's only because everyone else is so far left. Fox is actually more fair and balanced than any network and the Pew Research center (a well known neutrel think tank even says so.) Headline News used to be straight reporting back when Rudy Bachtiar and others were on. When they dumped Rudy and some of the others, they then started to spin regular news.

What is amazing is all the opinion pieces that are presented as hard news. Watch closely at the "hard news" on the networks. If you pay attention you can see the spin.

mfmosman said...


1. I'm not a "moderate influenced by the left." I'm a Mormon who's been a Democrat his whole life. The notion that I'm "influenced" suggests that you think I'm too stupid to reach my own conclusions, whereas you come to yours through independent inquiry?

2. The Fairness Doctrine has been a football since its inception; I agree with that.

3. Fox is centrist? Could've fooled me. And particularly, calling O'Reilly something other than conservative is ... shocking.

4. But: nobody is a worse partisan hack than Olbermann. Unless it's Rachel Maddow. I'll give you that.

5. Interesting that you can see into Obama's heart. That's a valuable skill.

6. Another fascinating skill: that you know what's beaten into my head (and indeed, what I watch) without our ever having met, to my knowledge. You're PSYCHIC, and that is AWESOME.

7. I'll try to scour the hard news for the hidden liberal hieroglyphs. I speak the language, so I should be able to see them.