Veto threat: Fairness Doctrine

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) instituted the Fairness Doctrine regulation in 1949, requiring that broadcasters design programs “so that the public has a reasonable opportunity to hear different opposing positions on the public issues of interest.”

The FCC abolished the Doctrine in 1987 after concluding that “a multiplicity of voices in the marketplace assured diversity of opinion.” Since then, a variety of alternative broadcast voices have flourished. In addition to newspapers and television, the public square open for debates has expanded to include talk radio, cable and satellite television, and the internet. The marketplace has allowed free speech to flourish.

Some Democrats in Congress have indicated their desire to seek legislation reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, in particular to regulate the content of radio broadcasts. In May, The American Spectator reported that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer will “aggressively pursue” reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine over the next six months, and in past weeks, Senators Durbin, Kerry, and Feinstein have all supported its reinstatement.

We think it makes sense to look at the diversity of views across different types of media, and not just within one medium. This is particularly true as Americans expand, diversify, and customize their news sources.” Decades ago, most Americans got their news and opinion from the evening news on the major television networks, from their local newspaper, and for some, from one of a few national newspapers.” Now, in addition to those more traditional sources, Americans are also watching dedicated cable news and specialty channels.” They are listening to talk radio over not just AM and FM spectrum, but satellite and internet radio. And they are getting their news, opinion, and commentary on public issues of interest from websites sponsored by news organizations, as well as blogs, discussion groups, and news feeds from individuals and organizations.

The availability and accessibility of diverse points of view on public issues of interest has never been greater, and there is therefore no good reason to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

Al Hubbard sent the following letter today to interested parties.

July 13, 2007

Dear _______:

As you probably know, some Members of Congress have recently indicated their desire to seek legislation to regulate what is said on the radio by reinstating the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which was abolished in 1987 after the FCC concluded that “a multiplicity of voices in the marketplace assured diversity of opinion” on our airwaves. Since then, the multiplicity of voices has significantly increased – and the case for the Fairness Doctrine is weaker than ever. Reinstating the Fairness Doctrine would muzzle political debate and free speech. I therefore want you to know that the President would veto any legislation reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

Sincerely,

<signed>

Allan B. Hubbard

Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and

Director, National Economic Council

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