Rep. Blackburn Slams Fairness Doctrine

The fairness doctrine continues to be a hot topic in Washington, despite the president's renewed statement of opposition to it.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) took the opportunity of a speech at the Free State Foundation in Washington Thursday to criticize the doctrine as a "blue-print to be avoided at all costs."

She warned that if either Congress or the FCC rolled back First Amendment rights on the air, "bloggers, I-Reporters and the owner of the next big idea would soon have reason to fear."

The doctrine, which was scrapped in 1987, required broadcasters to seek out opposing viewpoints on issues of public importance. Some Republicans fear the Democratic majority in Washington would bring the policy back in an attempt to quiet their conservative talk radio critics. Some Democrats have added fuel to the fire by suggesting a fondness for its return, while others say the issue is a straw horse and a distraction.

Blackburn was using the doctrine as an example of bygone policymaking that could stifle expression in the digital age.

"Reinstating the Fairness Doctrine jeopardizes the very benefits Americans enjoy today. It not only puts a successful American business-model at risk, but also establishes a troubling precedent for the future."

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.