FCC Takes Fairness Doctrine Off the Books

Aug 22, 2011  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission announced today that it has officially taken the Fairness Doctrine out of its rulebook, Multichannel News reports. The move includes striking the doctrine’s corollaries on personal attacks and free response, and extends to 83 other media-related rules the agency says are not needed.

According to the report: “The FCC has not enforced the doctrine, which required broadcasters to affirmatively seek out opposing viewpoints on controversial issues, in almost a quarter century. However, it continued to cast a shadow over the agency from the viewpoint of many Republicans; broadcasters, particularly religious broadcasters; and others concerned about the speech regulation implications of its return.

The doctrine was effectively eliminated back in 1987, a move that helped create the landscape for conservative talk radio, the report says.

The story adds: “FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and President Barack Obama had said they did not support the doctrine and that it was not coming back. But some Republicans saw its shadow in issues like proposals of community advisory boards for TV station public interest programming.”

Genachowski said in a statement today: "The elimination of the obsolete Fairness Doctrine regulations will remove an unnecessary distraction. As I have said, striking this from our books ensures there can be no mistake that what has long been a dead letter remains dead. The Fairness Doctrine holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas and was properly abandoned over two decades ago. I am pleased we are removing these and other obsolete rules from our books."


  1. If anything the Fairness doctrine insured that both sides of any important issue were heard thereby enforcing free speech. Only the schrill and those that do not want to here what anyone else has to say support this decision.
    We will never see civilized debate again and it is just another brick wall pulled from the wall of our democracy.
    God help us all.

  2. Considering the doctrine has not been enforced by the FCC for over 2 decades, how can any intelligent person decry it’s passing? The doctrine was never enforced the way it was written. For “Tim” to say things like “We will never see civilized debate again…” shows he does not understand that the law was not enforced. This removal from the FCC books will not change the way debate has been, and will continue to be, conducted.

  3. Free speech has nothing to do with hearing both sides of an issue.
    Free speech is about your right to say what you please, and protecting free speech is about keeping the state (or those who may disagree with what you say) from acts of censure or reprisal because they disagree with what you say.
    Old saws about yelling “fire” in a crowded theater not withstanding.

  4. The concept behind the Fairness Doctrine was that everyone owned the airwaves and therefore everyone should have their voice heard whether you were right or left of center.
    When this was instituted we didn’t have the media concentration we do now and a corporation wasn’t considered an entitee as regards to “free” speech.
    Therefore, we now have state of being where the more money you have the more “free” speech you have.
    In my opinion, this event is not good for a democracy and is exactly what the writers of the Fairness Doctrine had in mind and were trying to prevent.

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