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Samuel Johnson

Miss Anthony


Period: 3rd

Dec. 17th, 2009

The Un-Fairness Doctrine

In the mid-1960's, an effort was made to systematically identify "right-wing

broadcasting... Hostile to President Kennedy and his programs" and harass them

with letters and telephone calls demanding equal time. The fairness doctrine is a

policy, if passed, would give opposing parties on TV or radio equal airing time to

suppress biases. The constitutionality of the fairness doctrine was challenged in

the 1969 case Red Lion v. FCC for providing a person criticized on the air an

opportunity to reply. Since 1969, the fairness doctrine has been tried many times

but all attempts failed. Many times after, attempts were to pass the fairness

doctrine through President Ronald Raegan and congress. However, all attempts

failed. Recently, Democrats have advocated that the doctrine should be

reinstated. They argue that broadcasters, including talk radio should present both

sides of any issue because they use the public airwaves Those who support

reinstating the fairness doctrine often cite the fact that public ownership justifies

the imposition if content-based censorship on licensees. This research paper will

be an argument of my three points of disapproval towards the fairness doctrine's

revival. My points being that the fairness doctrine is against the First Amendment

of the Constitution, it had been failed many times in the past, and its result of
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airing less opinions on the airwaves.

My first reason is that the fairness doctrine is unconstitutional to the

first amendment; the freedom of speech and press. "Congress shall

make no aw respecting religion, of prohibiting the exercise of thereof; or

abridging the freedom speech or of the press; or the right of the

peaceably assembly, and to petition the government for tedress of

grievances." Any law that is targeted at media based on the content of

what being said raises greater constitutional concerns and is much less

likely to pass constitutional muster. A reinstatement of the fairness

doctrine has the potential to place bureaucrats and political appointees in

a position to squelch free speech. The fairness doctrine is a real hazard

to the first amendment of the constitution.

My second point is that the fairness doctrine has already failed in

many attempts to pass President Raegan, supreme court, and the

congress. The likelihood of it passing today is slim. An attempt to pass

supreme court in a court case Red Lion Broadcasting v. FCC was setup.

The Court ruled it did not violate a broadcaster's First Amendment rights,

the court did say if this were to ever restrain speech, the court would

reconsider the constitutionality. After attempting to pass Supreme Court,

it was attempted to pass President Ronald Raegan whom had vetoed it.

The FCC had put up the fairness doctrine to test to see it "served public

interest," The fairness doctrine had not served the public's interest and

the fairness diminished opinions on the radio instead of simply controlling

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them. Today,, the FCC refuses to pass a policy that had failed the FCC's

"public interest" policy. The Obama administration are against the

fairness doctrine and are leaving it to the FCC whom are against it as


My third point is that rather than controlling time, it will diminish the

want to air any opposing arguments at all. The FCC had put this to test to see

if it qualified "public interest." Not only did it fail to do just that, it diminished

opinions almost entirely, much rather not airing opinions than to worrying

about the fairness doctrine. The D.C. District Court ruled that the Fairness

Doctrine was not codified as part of the 1959 amendment to the 1937

Communications Act. Instead, Justices Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia ruled

that the doctrine was not "mandated by statute." In 1987, the FCC repealed

the fairness doctrine, "with the exception of the personal attack and political

editorializing rules." In 1989, the D.C. District Court made the final ruling in

Syracuse Peace Council v. FCC. The ruling quoted "Fairness Report" and

concluded that the fairness doctrine was not in the public interest.

The fairness doctrine was to originally suppress press whom were

against President Kennedy's programs. However, years after, the fairness

took a detour to suppress all press. The fairness doctrine is indeed

unconstitutional; none can do anything about that. However, the public's

interest in the fairness doctrine could change but it still wouldn't be able to be

passed due to being unconstitutional. Theres not much to do but to object it

overall. Even though the public may be obliged to do it, it's still against the
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Founding Fathers' original plans for this country's goodness.

Citation Page
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Tolchin, Martin. "How Fair Is The Fairness Doctrine?". New York Times.

December 6, 2009 <


Gattuso, James. "Back to Muzak? Congress and the Un-Fairness Doctrine". The

Heritage Foundation.


Fletcher, Dan. "The Fairness Doctrine". Time. November 17, 2009


Thierer, Adam. "Why the Fairness Doctrine is Anything But Fair". The Heritage

Foundation. <>.

Thierer, Adam. "Return of the (Un)Fairness Doctrine: The Media Ownership

Reform Act". CATO Institute. November 19, 2009


Gill, Kathy. "What Is The Fairness Doctrine?". December 17, 2009

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