I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fairness doctrine for broadcasters

There has been a fair amount of publicity lately about a campaign to restore the fairness doctrine for broadcasters. Rep. Maurice Hinchey's website has an undated notice announcing that he will soon be re-introducing a bill called the Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA), which would restore the fairness doctrine as well as change the rules for media ownership. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has proposed a companion bill in the Senate. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), chairman of the House subcommittee on domestic policy, announced he would hold hearings on the media, which would include looking at restoring the fairness doctrine. However, a previous House version of MORA in the last Congress, H.R. 3302, had only 16 co-sponsors, a small number for the House, which has 435 members.

The fairness doctrine for broadcasters is discussed here and here, and also on Uncommon Descent and Fatheaded Ed's blog.

For various reasons, I am opposed to an unlimited fairness doctrine for broadcasters. I think that a requirement of, say, equal time for "conservative" and "liberal" talk shows would be too great a burden for broadcasters. Also, it is often difficult to define what is "liberal" and what is "conservative." However, I am in favor of an "equal time" or "right to reply" rule requiring that individuals who are personally attacked on a broadcasting station be given a few minutes to respond. The case in which the Supreme Court upheld the fairness doctrine, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC (1969), was about such a requirement that an individual be given an opportunity to respond. In Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo (1974), the Supreme Court inexplicably struck down a similar "right to reply" law for newspapers. These two cases are discussed here (Red Lion is item #5 and Miami Herald is item #8).

A common argument against restoring the fairness doctrine for broadcasters is that we have an abundance of broadcasting stations today, but that argument does not hold water. Some stations are going to be more popular than others and there is nothing in the First Amendment that says that the more popular stations are more equal than others in regard to a right to control what reaches the largest audiences. Also, ownership of broadcasting stations is concentrated in a few hands (that is also an issue which MORA seeks to address). Still, though, I feel that the disadvantages of an unlimited fairness doctrine for broadcasters outweigh the advantages. This specious argument of an abundance of sites is also raised in opposition to my proposal for a fairness doctrine for blogs.

My proposal of a fairness doctrine for blogs -- which would generally prohibit arbitrary censorship of visitors' comments -- is based on the following points: (1) the doctrine would not be a burden to bloggers because comment space is unlimited; (2) some blogs have become de facto major public forums; (3) blogs are being authoritatively cited by court opinions, official news services, etc.; and (4) BVD-clad bloggers are seeking special privileges -- e.g., a "reporter's privilege" that would allow them to keep their confidential sources secret -- and so should accept some responsibilities. I have also proposed a fairness-doctrine exemption for bloggers who post prominent notices saying that they practice arbitrary censorship. A fairness doctrine for blogs is eminently fair, practical, constitutional, democratic, and ethical.
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