FCC's McDowell Criticizes 'Fairness Doctrine' Revival
January 29, 2009 at 11:14 AM (PT)
FCC Commissioner ROBERT MCDOWELL told a luncheon of the MEDIA INSTITUTE at WASHINGTON's FOUR SEASONS HOTEL WEDNESDAY that in enacting the original "Fairness Doctrine," "While intending to build a shield against hostile political ideas, the FCC also created a political weapon." He criticized the possibility of a revival of the doctrine as a bureaucratic problem and cited numerous problems with the rules, which some Democrats on CAPITOL HILL have indicated an interest in bringing back. He noted that the underlying rationale for the doctrine and the RED LION case upholding it -- spectrum scarcity -- has since been practically eliminated both by alternative media and by the number of stations more than doubling since RED LION was decided in 1969. MCDOWELL also suggested that an attempt to use scarcity to support a revived doctrine would allow the courts to eliminate all content regulation, including that for indecency, based on scarcity.
Quoting a JOHNSON administration official as saying that LBJ's WHITE HOUSE had a "massive strategy... to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited, and decide it was too expensive to continue," MCDOWELL said, "History proves that abuses of power brought forth by the Doctrine are not partisan. Both right-leaning and left-leaning broadcasters have been attacked and intimidated. With that in mind, if the Doctrine is reimposed in any form, how do we know that it will not be used to silence political adversaries?"
"(O)lder generation people, some of whom are now in charge of policy-making, are still thinking in Old World and Old Media terms," MCDOWELL said. "What they don’t understand is that the media market place has passed them by and the factual basis for a Doctrine restoration does not exist."