I hear a lot of talk these days about people wanting to implement a “Fairness Doctrine”. This is an ill-conceived plan intended to REQUIRE holders of FCC broadcast licenses to provide “balance” to controversial issues presented on their radio and TV stations. The current push in this direction is an overt attempt by opponents to counter the widespread popularity of conservative radio talk shows… so why should they couch it in a nice-sounding title and call it what it is: a grab for control. There is nothing really “fair” about it.
The objections I have to any attempt to assert control in this arena are many:
First, why should the government be involved in controlling the content of radio/TV broadcasts? The origins of the license itself was to ensure broadcast signals didn’t “step on” each other. This is a sensible technical requirement… if broadcast frequencies are too close within a certain geographic proximity, the signals will be mixed and the audience (citizens) would not be well served. Perhaps a case could be made to control the content to the extent it might be obscene. However, I can see no reason to control any political content a broadcast might have… and can see many reasons NOT to do so.
Too often, politicians think in terms of our predominately two-party system… but, when it comes to opinion, there are never just two sides to an issue, especially controversial ones. Instead of theoretically requiring an opposing position to be presented to one side of an idea, there might be dozens or hundreds! Where does that fit in to a practical presentation within any radio or TV program? How could that possibly be commercially viable? Instead of enhancing the public discussion, it would simply force broadcasters out of business since they couldn’t afford to present every single side to an issue (nor would anyone watch/listen to them all).
It’s not as straightforward as requiring, say, a conservative talk show to have opposing opinions presented. How about your favorite TV program? Many weave political comments within them… so they’d have to present opposing views. Or late-night shows that let guests make political comments would have to schedule guests with different views.
How about when a radio broadcaster plays some song about a controversial issue? I guess they’d have to play songs with alternate views. There are many religious radio stations around the country. If one is dedicated to Christian ideas, would it have to present alternative views? And public radio (which the government should not be sponsoring in the first place) would be ripe for counter-programming.
There is no practical way for this concept to work… nor should we even try.
Last, IF there was some requirement to “balance” the opinions presented on a radio or TV program, WHO makes that decision? I have a real problem putting this subjective judgment in the hands of bureaucrats, much less politicians (or those under their control). There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that such power would be abused.
Our country is one based in FREEDOM, and ANY attempt to control political discourse is counter to that basic tenet.