Fairness (Censorship) Doctrine

Legislation currently is before Congress that would reinstate a federal communications policy known as the “fairness doctrine.” The legislation, entitled the “Fairness in Broadcasting Act of 1993,” is sponsored in the Senate (S. 333) by Ernest Hollings, the South Carolina Democrat, and in the House (H.R. 1985) by Bill Hefner, the North Carolina Democrat. It would codify a 1949 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation that once required broadcasters to “afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance.” The fairness doctrine was overturned by the FCC in 1987. The FCC discarded the rule because, contrary to its purpose, it failed to encourage the discussion of more controversial issues. There were also concerns that it was in violation of First Amendment free speech principles. The legislation now before Congress would enshrine the fairness doctrine into law.

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