Dingell to bring back the Fairness Doctrine

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-MI, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants to revive the broadcast Fairness Doctrine, an FCC policy that once required broadcasters to offer competing viewpoints on controversial issues.

Dingell made the comment last week at the annual government affairs conference of the three main advertising groups: the American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Dingell said he sees no reason why broadcasters should have trouble with a return of the doctrine. He also indicated a more specific initiative is on the way.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, who chairs a subcommittee under Dingell, said earlier this year that due to intense media consolidation, he would hold hearings on reviving the doctrine.

The NAB strongly opposes the Fairness Doctrine. “The last thing this country needs is the government telling NPR or local broadcasters how to cover the news,” said Dennis Wharton, the NAB spokesman. “We have gone without it for 20 years and there has been an explosion of coverage of issues from all angles.”

The FCC dropped the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, after complaints that the doctrine violated broadcasters’ First Amendment free speech rights. However, in 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality. It has longed been criticized by conservative groups for allegedly keeping their views from being expressed or of deliberately reducing their available airtime.