Posts tagged ‘Fairness Doctrine’

Don't Dance on the Times' Grave

Recent circulation numbers showing continued, substantial declines of traditional newspapers give me an excuse to make a point I have wanted to make for some time. 

I am a frequent critic of newspapers.  I think they have lost focus on the hard-hitting investigative journalism which used to be their highest and best calling, instead considering reiteration of an activist's press release sufficient to check the journalism box on some particular issue.  When investigative reporting does occur, it almost always is focused to support the dominant or politically correct outcome, rather than to really challenge conventional wisdom.   Media coverage of any technical issue involving science or statistics or economics is often awful, in large part because journalism is too often the default educational path of folks who want to avoid numbers.  Any time I have been on the inside of some issue receiving coverage, I have generally been astounded by how little the print descriptions matched reality.  Now that I am interviewed more as a source for articles, I never think my views are well-quoted (though that may be my fault for not talking in sound bites).  And, like many, I get irritated that the media's arrogance and self-referential reporting seems to increase in direct proportion to their drop in circulation.

All that being said, the world without healthy newspapers is a bad thing. 

First, we bloggers can blather on all day about being the new media, but with the exception of a few folks like Radley Balko, we're all editorial writers, not reporters  (I consider my role at to be more like journalism, but only because there is such a glaring hole on that topic in traditional media).  I couldn't do what I do here, at least on this particular blog, without the New York Times and the Washington Post.  I'm a remora feeding on their scraps.  I can't bring down the big fish by myself, I can only feed on the bits they miss.

Second, and perhaps more important in this world of proposed reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, print media is the mode of speech best protected by the First Ammendment.  This isn't the way it should be -- all speech should be equal -- but in reality goofy regulatory regimes for radio, TV, and even the Internet all offer the government leverage points for speech control they don't have with the print media.  It's why half the dystopic sci fi novels out there have a world dominated by TV -- because that is where government has the most control of speech.

So here's hoping you guys at the NY Times get your act together.


I have argued for a while that American support for real free speech seems to be languishing, and we seem to be more and more comfortable with making exceptions to the first amendment for "hate speech" and speech that offends people, and speech that costs money during an election.  And now this, via Q&O, from a Rasmussen poll:

A large segment of the public would like to extend the concept of the
Fairness Doctrine to the Internet as well. Thirty-four percent (34%)
believe the government should "require web sites that offer political
commentary to present opposing viewpoints." Fifty percent (50%) are

They could only dredge up a bare majority of 50% to oppose this?

Equal Time

In a prior post, I asked the left if they were uncomfortable with liberal judges being on the wrong side of free speech in the recent BCRA-related decision.  As equal time, in the spirit of the heinous Fairness Doctrine again raising its ugly head, I will ask the right if they are comfortable with conservative justices being on the wrong side of property rights and government power in Wilkie v. Robbins.

By the way, speaking of the Fairness Doctrine, its instructive that the incumbent political parties consider fairness to mean equal time for all the ... incumbent political parties.  Its interesting that no one in Congress takes the law to mean equal time for Greens or Libertarians or White Supremacists.

Eeek! Return of the Fairness Doctrine

QandO reports that Dennis Kucinich is trying to resurrect the fairness doctrine in media, reassigning the FCC the task of policing political speech in broadcast media:

The Presidential candidate said that the committee would be holding
"hearings to push media reform right at the center of Washington." The
Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee
was to be officially announced this week in Washington, D.C., but
Kucinich opted to make the news public early.

In addition to
media ownership, the committee is expected to focus its attention on
issues such as net neutrality and major telecommunications mergers.
Also in consideration is the "Fairness Doctrine,"
which required broadcasters to present controversial topics in a fair
and honest manner. It was enforced until it was eliminated in 1987.

Usually, you can be sure that when a politician talks about the government intervening for "fairness" in free speech, it means that he wants the government to push his political point of view and squash others.  The only surprise is that Kucinich is totally up front about this:

Kucinich said in his speech that "We know the media has become the
servant of a very narrow corporate agenda" and added "we are now in a
position to move a progressive agenda to where it is visible."

So, having failed in the marketplace, and with well-funded entrants like Air America, Kucinich wants the government to force media companies to promote a progressive agenda on the airwaves.  Yuk.

Update: Q&O is on fire, with a great followup post here.

Broadcast Speech Limitation from Left and Right

We libertarians are often argue that both the left and the right are equally guilty of stepping on key freedoms.  We currently have an excellent example of that in the case of freedom of speech in broadcast media (radio and TV).

From the RightNew initiatives to crack down on "bad language" and sexual content in broadcast media, most famously driving Howard Stern to satellite.

From the Left:  While bent out of shape about the right's crackdown on immoral speech, the left turns around and attempts a crackdown, via renewal of the Fairness Doctrine, on political speech.  See hapless John Kerry decrying loss of the Fairness Doctrine here, and a more coherent history here.

Can't we just agree to allow everyone free speech and turn off what we don't want to hear?