NAB Claps for Fairness Doctrine Bar Bill

The National Association of Broadcasters today issued a spam applauding the introduction of the Broadcaster Freedom Act, a bill that would bar the resurrection of the Fairness Doctrine. The NAB said the bill was introduced yesterday in the Senate by Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and John Thune (R-S.C.). A House version is being sponsored by Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

The Fairness Doctrine requires broadcasters to give equal air time to opposing viewpoints on controversial issues. It was imposed in the 1940s because broadcasting was the only media platform with a national audience. That paradigm diminished with the development of the Internet, cable TV, and even USA Today.

The Fairness Doctrine was ditched in the late 1980s, but some Democratic lawmakers recently have suggested bringing it back. The doctrine is a bane to broadcasters, requiring them to provide air time for just about anyone disagreeing with Rush Limbaugh, Jon Stewart or Terry Gross’s Fresh Air.

Reinstatement is unlikely to gain much support, since the law was predicated on the scarceness of national media platforms. However, the threat of it could be used to impose lesser public interest requirements on broadcasters.