Martin against Fairness Doctrine

Failure to offer free airtime to opposing candidates could result in loss of a broadcaster’s license.
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Last week, FCC chairman Kevin Martin told broadcasters not to expect a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine.

Until it ended in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to take reasonable steps to ensure the airing of both sides of issues of public importance. Failure to offer free airtime to opposing sides could result in loss of a broadcaster’s license.

In recent weeks, congressional Democrats, reacting to right-wing talk radio and television and wanting to return a political balance to the public airwaves, have advocated a return of the doctrine.

In a letter written this week to Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, however, Martin said the FCC has no compelling reason to revisit its 1987 decision. He also said that enforcing the Fairness Doctrine was not in the public interest.

Martin said government regulation is not needed to ensure public access to a wide range of opinion. “Indeed, with the continued proliferation of additional sources of information and programming, including satellite broadcasting and the Internet, the need for the Fairness Doctrine has lessened even further since 1987,” he said.