What is the Fairness Doctrine?What is the Fairness Doctrine?

What is the Fairness Doctrine?


The Fairness Doctrine was an FCC (Federal Communication Commission) policy that was in place from 1949 to 1987 that required broadcast companies to do two things. First, they had to devote adequate time to controversial public issues and give fair coverage to opposing views on those topics. Second, those broadcasters had to allow reply time for citizens to react to those issues.

This policy was instituted by the FCC in 1949 in response to an FCC Commission Report which decreed that broadcast licenses should only be distributed when they served the public interest. To that end, the institution of the Fairness Doctrine ensured that broadcasters would further the public interest in the communities that they served by devoting some airtime to these public interest topics.

The primary opposition to the Doctrine came from journalists and other media producers, who considered it a violation of their First Amendment rights and that they should have the final decision in balancing and maintaining fairness in stories. In addition, rather than go through the extra effort of finding contrasting opinions for each story, many journalists decided not to cover these controversial topics at all, which created a “chilling effect” in which stories were not covered at all.

By 1985, the FCC decided that the doctrine was no longer useful for its intended purpose and that it violated the First Amendment which governing free speech (even though several Supreme Court cases had upheld its constitutionality in the past). In 1987, the FCC voted to revoke the Fairness Doctrine, though it technically remained on the books until 2011. At that time, the language that implemented it was removed from FCC regulations following a White House executive order for government organizations to eliminate unnecessary or redundant regulations.

The US Supreme Court Decision of Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC

The Supreme Court case of Red Lion Broadcasting versus the FCC was one of the most famous challenges to the Fairness Doctrine. In this case, the FCC charged that Red Lion Broadcasting had violated the Fairness Doctrine when it carried a program that included a personal attack on a journalist named Fred J. Cook. As … Continue reading

Are Talk Radio Shows Really Fair and Balanced?

Most talk radio shows are not balanced or fair, they are driven by ideology because ideology is easy to sell. Although, there is a case to be made that talk radio is just a reflection of an ideological divide that already exists and can be easily exploited. Does Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck want to … Continue reading

The Importance of Talk Radio

Talk radio can be an effective outlet for citizens to get a wide-ranging scope of news and opinion about their local communities and national events. While some talk radio shows can be very partisan and ideologically focused, there are talk radio shows that offer a more complete look at issues without an aggressive agenda. When … Continue reading

The Importance of Freedom of Speech

The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This amendment in the U.S. Constitution … Continue reading