Bill Clinton Talks of Re-Imposing Fairness Doctrine or At Least "More Balance" in Media

High-profile Democrats continue to stir the pot on the issue of re-imposing the fairness doctrine.

The latest was former President Bill Clinton, who said on The Mario Solis Marichradio show that something needed to be done to balance broadcasting.

Marich said progressive shows like his were being outgunned and asked whether it was time for some enforced media accountability.

"Well, you either ought to have the fairness doctrine or you ought to have more balance on the other side," Clinton said, "because essentially there has always been a lot of big money to support the right wing talk shows."

Clinton cited the "blatant drumbeat" against the stimulus program from conservative talk radio, saying it doesn't reflect economic reality.

"I think we need to have either more balance in the programs or some opportunity for people to offer counter-veiling opinions." He said he had not been in favor of getting rid of the fairness doctrine, which the FCC did back in 1987.

The doctrine required broadcasters to seek out opposing viewpoints on issues of public importance. The FCC scrapped it, concluding it was an unconstitutional infringement on speech.

Separately, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, in an interview with, said he does not support reviving the doctrine, which he said would be Congress' call anyway. But, according to a transcript of the interview, he did say that government had a role in enforcing media diversity.

The FCC could restore the doctrine without Congress' help, since it was the FCC, on its own authority, that dropped the doctrine after it was held to be an FCC rule rather than something set in statute.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.