Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Right's Confusion About The Fairness Doctrine And The Equal-time Rule

Right wing journalists and commentators seem to be confusing issues regarding the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal-time rule, and exploiting the lack of knowledge on these issues by the general public to drum up fear about the government manipulating your news.  I constantly hear or read that liberals want to control the media, more so then they supposedly do now, by reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, which would force news programs to provide access to liberals.  Based on what I see that passes for news on Fox's cable network, I would believe the Fairness Doctrine will openly attack the station, but that is not true, for the Fairness Doctrine only affects holders of broadcast licenses.  The details of the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal-time rule are listed below.

The Equal-time rule applies to U.S. radio and television broadcasts and only applies when an opposing political candidate requests an equivalent opportunity to present their view.  The Equal-time rule does not apply to programming in a documentary format, a "bona fide" news interview, a scheduled newscast, or an on-the-spot newscast.  The FCC originally enacted the Equal-time rule in 1934 to prevent stations from easily manipulating the outcome of elections.

The Fairness Doctrine "required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced," and from my understanding, does not effect cable or satellite television, only broadcast transmissions.  According to Steve Rendall of the media criticism group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the Fairness Doctrine was composed of two basic elements:
"It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented."
I would assume that the right would want to have the Fairness Doctrine return, because then the mainstream media would become fair and balanced, because they would be forced to show opposing viewpoints and report on controversial matters that they supposedly ignore.  The only reason to fear the Fairness Doctrine is if you present a biased spin on current events and openly support political candidates and events, while claiming to be fair and balanced, and you wish to continue doing so, which is what the Federal Communications Commissioned fear would occur in absense of the doctrine, and the media would manipulate the political landscape.

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