Farewell Fairness Doctrine

The FCC delivered a coup de grace of sort to the Fairness Doctrine Aug. 22 when it announced the elimination of 83 outdated rules.

The Fairness Doctrine, a vestige of a previous age in broadcasting when far fewer channels existed, required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues.

In 1987, the FCC decided to do away with the Fairness Doctrine. Mark Fowler, chairman of the commission at the time, advanced the idea that the Fairness Doctrine impinged on the First Amendment rights of broadcasters.

While the Fairness Doctrine has been unenforced since the late ‘80s, it remained an FCC regulation. The announcement Aug. 22 wipes it away.

“The elimination of the obsolete Fairness Doctrine regulations will remove an unnecessary distraction,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a press statement announcing the action. “As I have said, striking this from our books ensures there can be no mistake that what has long been a dead letter remains dead. The Fairness Doctrine holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas and was properly abandoned over two decades ago. I am pleased we are removing these and other obsolete rules from our books.”

Other elided FCC rules and regulations included the “broadcast flag,” the cable programming service tier rate, and broadcast applications and proceeding rules.