The FCC gave the coup de grace to the fairness doctrine Monday as the commission axed more than 80 media industry rules.
Earlier this summer FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski agreed to erase the post WWII-era rule, but the action Monday puts the last nail into the coffin for the regulation that sought to ensure discussion over the airwaves of controversial issues did not exclude any particular point of view. A broadcaster that violated the rule risked losing its license.
While the commission voted in 1987 to do away with the rule — a legacy to a time when broadcasting was a much more dominant voice than it is today — the language implementing it was never removed. The move Monday, once published in the federal register, effectively erases the rule.
Monday’s move is part of the commission’s response to a White House executive order directing a “government-wide review of regulations already on the books” designed to eliminate unnecessary regulations.
While I’d like to break out the bubbly and fill up every glass in the room, I know better than to think that this superficial “erasing” of the Fairness Doctrine means we no longer have to worry, because I know just how much liberals despise free speech – especially when they’re losing in the arena of ideas and at the ballot box. Newsbusters’ Ken Shepherd is on the same page:
So the Fairness Doctrine is dead. But the spirit of the same could well live on as a regulatory specter forever.
Regulatory pushes for “localism” and “diversity” requirements could prove to be a back-door reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine, a Republican FCC commissioner warned two weeks ago.
Here’s what that Commissioner had to say:
Though much of the discussion about a possible fairness doctrine for broadcasters went away when Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 2010, one Federal Communications Commissioner says there still could be an effort at finding a back door to the rules. Commissioner Robert McDowell told [Fox News'] Chris Stirewalt on Monday’s Power Play Live that localism, a proposal that gives the federal government the ability to make sure broadcasters serve their communities, could also be used to wedge in principles of the fairness doctrine.
“The government would be compiling data as to what kind of content you were airing and whether the government thought that was appropriate content,” McDowell said. “It could be political speech, it could be shows on baking or gardening. But we don’t know where the government is headed.”
Video of the full discussion is below:
In other words, more likely than not, this gesture on the part of the Obama administration’s FCC is purely symbolic and nothing more. Which we should be used to by now. Even shorter version:
It ain’t over.