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Fairness Doctrine by Federal Communications Commission

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And the Federal Communications Commission

Section 1 Legal Precedents

Even though it caused catastrophe for all of media outlet and with all of the controversies that lead to its abolishment in 87’, the fairness doctrine remains somehow to this day one of the most debatable and talked about issues in broadcasting. The Fairness Doctrine was introduce as a policy, created and implemented by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in order to govern broadcasting airwave. That broadcast licensees should cover issues of public interest and matter of important as well as consider controversial issues and to do so in a fair manner.

The Fairness Doctrine also laid out that broadcast licensees needs to provided reasonable opportunity for contrasting viewpoints on such issues. The Fairness Doctrine however, seems to have had a different take on what should be equal time and or fair according to broadcaster. Based on what was stated in the fairness doctrine, the Supreme Court seem to be in agreement with the FCC and the fairness doctrine act by upholding majority of cases that was brought before the Supreme Court, in matters that showed the fairness doctrine being unjust.

The Supreme Court’s decision was based on several of implanted factors that is in accordance to the fairness doctrine, (1) because of limited broadcasting availability, the implementation of licensing was established, (2) having government scrutiny be imposed on the content of the broadcasters, and (3) that the fairness doctrine have the effect to drive public viewpoint. In the Red Lion Broadcasting Co., vs FCC case where the Constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine was questioned, despite the argument about Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment. Felt that their First Amendment and Constitutional right were violated. The court however, still upheld the case, siting disapproval of what was perceived to be a controversial issues that took place over the airwaves.

Red Lion Broadcasting Co., a licensee for a radio station was stand accused of violating the Fairness Doctrine and was order to provide free airtime in order to settle the controversial issue that was broth before the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court found that the FCC was within its authority to implement the regulations at issues and that the doctrine had full authority and is in compliance with the first amendment.

Supreme Court upheld the fairness doctrine due to the personal attack and political editorializing rules and the statutory implications of the amendment in the communications act. In upholding the case against Red Lion the Supreme Court did so because of the licensee failure in not meeting the required obligations set for by the fairness doctrine. This however, was done so even though the court did not examine the full legislative history of the doctrine. Thereby not understanding the justifications in the fairness doctrine and its codifications. The court was unable to reach clear conclusion.

The Miami Herald Publishing Co, vs Tornillo carried a similar case as to that of Red Lion. A Florida case were a political candidate felt he were being ridiculed or as the he puts it being criticize by the News Paper Publishing Co., Tornillo believe he should be granted the right to reply, to which the Supreme Court determined after a unanimous vote; that inevitable effect imposed would be to reduce the amount of controversial issues of public importance to be in the press.

Sections 2 Critiques

The fairness doctrine was enacted by the FCC in order to oversee broadcaster. Broadcasters, in order to received authority to be on the airwave; had to obtain license, due to scarcity of broadcast airwave. In additions, the commission imposed two goals to which the broadcaster had to follow (1) to follow protocol; meaning, to cover issues of vital importance and of interest to the community. (2) Allowing reasonable opportunity to such viewpoint that is in line with controversial issues.

In retrospect to the fairness doctrine, it was questionable on numerus occasions by both the commissioner and the public; as to whether the doctrine was in fact permissible and align with the first amendment. In light of the fairness doctrine questionability, it was also recognized for the purpose in which it was created for and that is to service the market.

[pic 26]Without any biased notion concerning the fairness doctrine and judging its apparent necessity, some critiques found that it actually inhibits any controversial issues that is of importance to the public. The Fairness Doctrine has been inevitably misguided when representing the public, which even the Comminution Commission stated

In sum, the Supreme Court no longer believed the fairness doctrine meet the standard of broadcasting market and that it created a chilling effect.

The fairness doctrine did according to broadcasters, imposed upon their First Amendment by forcing to have all broadcasters obtained license. By doing this it gave the FCC leverage in conjunction with the fairness doctrine to have the media complied with their terms or lose their broadcasting privilege. Contrary to what the fairness doctrine was implemented for, which is to have broadcast licensees devote reasonable and fair amount of time with matter of importance and on controversial viewpoints. Failed to do so, this fairness doctrine according to some critiques was anything but fair.  

At some point in time, the Courts’ had to make a decision on the fairness doctrine and the effect it was creating for the broadcasters and the public viewpoint. But even with the controversy of the doctrine some Courts however, seems to recognize the validity of the questions in the doctrine as to whether or not it was codified. According to (pg 243-169)

“At least one Court had specifically determined that the fairness doctrine had not been codified”

Nevertheless, of that one Court’s determining factor, the doctrine was put into questioned as to the nature and the authenticity of doctrine that was put in place by the FCC, was it or was it not codified?  



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