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FCC’s McDowell seeks Fairness Doctrine for Web content

Republican FCC commissioner Robert McDowell warned last week that reinstating the Fairness Doctrine could allow the government to regulate the content of Web sites.

There’s been a major concern among conservative talk radio hosts that reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine would all but destroy the industry due to equal time constraints. But speech limits might not stop at radio, McDowell said in comments to bloggers at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

McDowell said the Fairness Doctrine could be extended to include the Internet, the net neutrality issue and “government dictating content policy.”

McDowell, who voted against reprimanding Comcast for its attempt to limit Web use, said the net neutrality effort could win the support of “a few isolated conservatives” who may not fully realize the long-term effects of government regulation.

“I think the fear is that somehow large corporations will censor their content, their points of view, right,” McDowell said. “I think the bigger concern for them should be if you have government dictating content policy, which by the way would have a big First Amendment problem.”

“Then, whoever is in charge of government is going to determine what is fair, under a so-called ‘Fairness Doctrine,’ which won’t be called that — it’ll be called something else,” McDowell said. “So, will web sites, will bloggers have to give equal time or equal space on their web site to opposing views rather than letting the marketplace of ideas determine that?”