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.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bills opposing restoration of Fairness Doctrine

This blog has several articles -- now listed under their own post-label, Fairness Doctrine -- about the Federal Communications Commission's now-dormant "Fairness Doctrine" for broadcasters. I also discuss the Fairness Doctrine on the Balkinization blog in four comments at the bottom of the comment thread under this post and in comments under this post. Basically, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to give reasonably balanced presentations of views on controversial issues. The main reason for my interest in the broadcasting Fairness Doctrine is that I feel that there should be a blogging Fairness Doctrine -- a law against arbitrary censorship of comments on blogs, with an exception for bloggers who post a prominent notice announcing that they practice such censorship. I generally oppose a broadcasting Fairness Doctrine because (1) it would be a great burden on broadcasters because of limited air time and (2) it would be difficult or impossible to distinguish between "liberal" and "conservative" views. However, IMO two "corollary" rules, the "political editorial" rule and the "personal attack" rule, which I discuss next, should be restored. Also, I think that there should be a rule -- which would probably be hard to enforce -- that all or some of the call-in comments on radio talk shows not be pre-screened.

The Fairness Doctrine had two "corollary" rules, the "political editorial" rule and the "personal attack" rule, which gave candidates and organizations free air time to respond to broadcasts that directly attacked them (including endorsement of an opposing candidate). These two corollary rules were not abandoned by the FCC along with the rest of the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980's but were eliminated (see comment at bottom of thread) by the DC Circuit federal appeals court in 2000 when the FCC failed to satisfy the court that the rules should be retained. IMO these two rules should be restored.

Bills aimed at blocking restoration of the Fairness Doctrine have been introduced in Congress. These bills have surprisingly large numbers of co-sponsors (in addition to the sponsor) -- HR 2905 has 207 and S 1748 has 35 (there is also a redundant S 1742). The wording of HR 2905 is typical:
.
A BILL
To prevent the Federal Communications Commission from repromulgating the fairness doctrine.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2007'.

SEC. 2. FAIRNESS DOCTRINE PROHIBITED.

Title III of the Communications Act of 1934 is amended by inserting after section 303 (47 U.S.C. 303) the following new section:

`SEC. 303A. LIMITATION ON GENERAL POWERS: FAIRNESS DOCTRINE.

`Notwithstanding section 303 or any other provision of this Act or any other Act authorizing the Commission to prescribe rules, regulations, policies, doctrines, standards, or other requirements, the Commission shall not have the authority to prescribe any rule, regulation, policy, doctrine, standard, or other requirement that has the purpose or effect of reinstating or repromulgating (in whole or in part) the requirement that broadcasters present opposing viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance, commonly referred to as the `Fairness Doctrine', as repealed in General Fairness Doctrine Obligations of Broadcast Licensees, 50 Fed. Reg. 35418 (1985).'.

It is not clear how these bills would affect the "political editorial" and "personal attack" rules. The bill refers to "the `Fairness Doctrine', as repealed in General Fairness Doctrine Obligations of Broadcast Licensees, 50 Fed. Reg. 35418 (1985).'," but as I noted these two corollary rules were not repealed at that time along with the rest of the Fairness Doctrine but were eliminated by the DC Circuit court in 2000. As I said, IMO these two rules should be restored. Also, as I said, I think that there should be a rule that all or some of the call-in comments on radio talk shows not be pre-screened. I am opposed to these bills because they do not give the FCC and the courts flexibility in dealing with the issue of fairness in broadcasting on controversial topics.

There is now an Internet petition in support of H.R. 2905 (I don't know why the petition does not express support of the companion Senate bills). For the reasons I stated, I am not signing it.

H.R. 2905 was referred to a House subcommittee on 6/28/2007 and has been stalled there ever since. On 10/01/2007, a proposed House resolution, H. Res. 694, which would require consideration of the bill by the Committee of the Whole House, was referred to the Committee on Rules. On 10/17/2007, a House petition (110-3) to discharge the Rules Committee from consideration of H. Res. 694 was introduced. The petition requires 218 signatures for further action but so far there are just 201 signatures and new signatures have slowed to a trickle -- there have been just seven signatures since 11/06/2007. I strongly suspect that the House is divided here along party lines -- the Fairness Doctrine tends to be supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans. Last year the House voted 309-115 to amend an appropriations bill to prohibit the FCC from using that bill's funds to enforce a Fairness Doctrine, but the amendment was a silly political gesture because the current Republican-dominated FCC is not inclined to restore the Fairness Doctrine anyway and because the prohibition won't prevent the FCC from restoring the Fairness Doctrine in the future (I don't know if the Senate adopted the prohibition).

As for a Fairness Doctrine for blogs: even without a law, there are things that can be done to reduce arbitrary censorship of comments on blogs:

(1) -- The Internet culture needs to change so that such censorship is widely frowned upon.

(2) -- Courts, scholarly journals, the press, and other authorities should have policies against authoritatively citing blogs that are known to practice such censorship.

As I said, it is usually the most persuasive dissenting comments that get censored -- unpersuasive dissenting comments are usually allowed to stay to serve as examples of the supposed weakness of the opposition.

Various trolls have been goading me into breaking my no-censorship policy so that they can falsely accuse me of hypocrisy. For example, they have been gossiping here about my private affairs and have been posting blatant lies about objective facts (for example, Voice in the Urbanness has been cluttering up this blog by repeatedly posting the lie that Judge Jones told a newspaper that he was going to follow the law whereas Jones actually told the newspaper that the school board election results would not affect his decision).
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6 Comments:

Anonymous Michael said...

The only reason why the "Fairness Doctrine" was even a issue is because conservative talk shows attract many listeners. Liberal talk shows have major problems attracting a large listening population.

I think that there should be a rule -- which would probably be hard to enforce -- that all or some of the call-in comments on radio talk shows not be pre-screened.

I disagree, I always believe let the market dictate radio formats and rules. In my locality, there is a popular radio talk show which screens calls. Firstly, the program is topical, meaning only certain topics broad up by the host, one cannot call to talk about what he planted in his garden, if the topic is about politics.

This is not to say "open forums" shouldn't be used or don't work, this should be up to the host. Also, the reason why a radio talk show would screen calls is the content. Repetition of the same argument can be annoying at times and often times leads to bad ratings. That's not to say callers can't agree, but if they can add something to the argument that is one thing, if they have nothing to add, the caller usually doesn't get on the air.

Has a caller been denied air time that could have made it? Answer: yes, since call screening is subjective. In a way, I like call screening as it prevents what people deem to be "trolls" who have the intent of disrupting a show (as we have seen in blogs) taking away from those who really want to debate the issue or agree with an issue or to just express one's opinion.

Sunday, July 20, 2008 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>> The only reason why the "Fairness Doctrine" was even a issue is because conservative talk shows attract many listeners. <<<<<<

That may be the issue now, but I don't think that was the issue when the Fairness Doctrine was originally established.

>>>>>>Liberal talk shows have major problems attracting a large listening population. <<<<<<<

Maybe the reason for that is that there are almost no liberal talk shows to attract anyone. An article says says,

The most extreme change has been in the immense volume of unanswered conservative opinion heard on the airwaves, especially on talk radio. Nationally, virtually all of the leading political talkshow hosts are right-wingers: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy, Bill O’Reilly and Michael Reagan, to name just a few. The same goes for local talkshows. One product of the post-Fairness era is the conservative “Hot Talk” format, featuring one right-wing host after another and little else. Disney-owned KSFO in liberal San Francisco is one such station (Extra!, 3–4/95). Some towns have two.

When Edward Monks, a lawyer in Eugene, Oregon, studied the two commercial talk stations in his town (Eugene Register-Guard, 6/30/02), he found “80 hours per week, more than 4,000 hours per year, programmed for Republican and conservative talk shows, without a single second programmed for a Democratic or liberal perspective.” Observing that Eugene (a generally progressive town) was “fairly representative,” Monks concluded: “Political opinions expressed on talk radio are approaching the level of uniformity that would normally be achieved only in a totalitarian society. There is nothing fair, balanced or democratic about it.”


Why are conservative talk shows so dominant? I think that one reason is that commercial sponsors and broadcasters tend to prefer conservative talk shows because those shows tend to take pro-business positions on particular issues, e.g., business taxes, environmental laws, labor laws, and -- ironically -- the Fairness Doctrine.

>>>>>>I think that there should be a rule -- which would probably be hard to enforce -- that all or some of the call-in comments on radio talk shows not be pre-screened.

I disagree, I always believe let the market dictate radio formats and rules. <<<<<<<

Market, shmarket. A lot of people don't realize that the government decides what they can call their own. You may think that your home is your castle, but if the cops find kiddie-porn stored there, you can go to jail. Environmental and zoning regulations can have the effect of virtually confiscating so-called "private" land. If the government feels nice, it might try to compensate the landowners for their losses (not necessarily by means of tax dollars).

>>>>> In my locality, there is a popular radio talk show which screens calls. <<<<<<

And some radio talk shows do not screen calls.

>>>>>> Firstly, the program is topical, meaning only certain topics broad up by the host, one cannot call to talk about what he planted in his garden, if the topic is about politics. <<<<<<

That's a straw man. If a call-in commenter goes off-topic, or is frivolous, or raises a question that has already been answered, that commenter can be cut short.

IMO my suggested requirement that all or some call-ins not be pre-screened would provide some balance in talk radio while being objective, neutral, and much less burdensome than, say, a requirement that a broadcaster give free air time to a "liberal" talk show to balance a "conservative" talk show.

Also, as I pointed out, these bills are not clear as to whether they would also prohibit restoration of those "corollary" rules, the "political editorial" and "personal attack" rules. In Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, the Supreme Court upheld these two rules as constitutional.

What I don't like about these Congressional bills is that they would deny the FCC the flexibility to deal (within limits imposed by the courts) with the issue of fairness in broadcasting on controversial topics.

Sunday, July 20, 2008 3:06:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Sunday, July 20, 2008 3:06:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Duplicate comment removed.

Sunday, July 20, 2008 5:28:00 PM  
Blogger John Wallace said...

On June 24, 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), while at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, told reporter John Gizzi, that she favored a return of the Fairness Doctrine. The imposition of the Fairness Doctrine would force radio broadcasters to provide equal time to opposing points of view, which would essentially give the government control over what the people can and cannot hear.

Ms Pelosi also said she supported the efforts of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) who has been very active behind the revival of the Fairness Doctrine. Rep Slaughter had introduced the 2004 MEDIA Act to bring back the Fairness Doctrine and reintroduced it in 2005 as the Fairness and Accountability in Broadcasting Act.

The Democratic leadership knows that they can't directly pass a "Fairness Doctrine" piece of legislation, so they will most likely try to slip it in under another name or attach it to some 'must pass' piece of legislation. Their support of the 'Fairness Doctrine by any means' strategy poses a direct threat to American citizens' constitutonal right of Freedom of Speech.

The important questions for Americans to ask are: Why is Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats against free speech for the American people? Why are they so determined to bring back the Fairness Doctrine? and why is the Democratic leadership refusing to bring a true piece of Freedom of Speech legislation, The Broadcaster Freedom Act HR-2905, to the floor for a vote?

I believe that it was the collapse of the radio station “Air America” a Liberal talk station, that has led to this attempt to re-introduce the Fairness Doctrine as a form of de facto censorship. It appears that if certain political views can’t compete in the world of ideas, then the solution is to pass a law that forces radio stations to air those views.

I am opposed to any resurrection of the “The Fairness Doctrine,” the 1940’s law that effectively censored political talk radio for many years, because it is a violation of the First Amendment and limits Free Speech. The real issue here is not what you “are able to” see or hear, which is what the Fairness Doctrine was about originally. It’s about placing limitations on the Freedoms you currently have to “choose” what to see or hear.

In the 1940’s and 50’s, Americans had few choices with only three major networks and there was some validity to the Fairness Doctrine. Today, Americans have an almost unlimited choice of where to get their information: regular TV, cable TV, regular radio, satellite radio, internet, web-blogs, etc., which makes the Fairness Doctrine unnecessary.

I support the Broadcaster Freedom Act (HR-2905), introduced by Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind) which would prevent these first amendment restrictive regulations from returning. Representative Mike Pence introduced the BFA last June, where it is still awaiting a vote. As of June 25, 2008, two hundred Members of Congress have signed a discharge petition which would force the House to make an up or down vote on the legislation, but an additional 18 signatures are still needed. So far, not one single House Democrat has signed the petition to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote.

It should also be noted that two of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioners have already indicated that they favor the return of the Fairness Doctrine. All that would be needed to reinstitute Fairness Doctrine regulations would be for the next President to appoint a third sympathetic commissioner. Then, the regulations could go back into effect without any vote at all and the constitutional Freedom of Speech rights and guarantees of all Americans would suffer another blow.

By not bringing the Broadcaster Freedom Act to the floor for a vote, Speaker Pelosi is attempting to limit the constitutional rights of Free Speech of those American citizens who happen to oppose her political views.

The constitutional right of Freedom of Speech guarantees that people or organizations have the right to express their ideas without danger of censorship, interference or punitive action by the government. It does not mean that people or organizations with different views must be provided with a meeting hall, a radio station or a printing press through which to express their ideas. Those who value the First Amendment, as I do, must oppose the Fairness Doctrine, in any form, as a serious threat to their Freedom of Speech.

By:
John Wallace
Candidate for Congress
NY's 20th COngressional District
www.FreedomCandidate.com

Sunday, July 20, 2008 9:01:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

To John Wallace:

Thanks for your comments, John, it is not often that I get comments from a candidate for Congress.

I will say at the outset that I am opposed to a general Fairness Doctrine -- for one thing, I think it is completely impractical. However, I am in favor of the following:

(1) Restoration of the "corollary" rules: the "political editorial" rule and the "personal attack" rule. In Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC (1969), the Supreme Court upheld these two rules as constitutional but declined to rule on the Fairness Doctrine in general. As I said, these two rules were not repealed along with the repeal (or abandonment?) of the main Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980's but were struck down by the DC Circuit appeals court in 2000 when the FCC failed to satisfy the court at that time that they should be continued (because these rules were held to be constitutional in Red Lion, I don't understand why they were struck down by the DC Circuit court). Also, as I said, it is not clear how these rules would be affected by HR 2905.

(2) A requirement that all or some of the call-ins to talk radio shows not be pre-screened -- this may be difficult to enforce.

>>>>>>> Rep Slaughter had introduced the 2004 MEDIA Act to bring back the Fairness Doctrine and reintroduced it in 2005 as the Fairness and Accountability in Broadcasting Act. <<<<<<<

As you know, the Fairness Doctrine was not a law but was a regulation that was abandoned (I don't know if it was even formally repealed) by the FCC. The FCC could restore it -- legislation is not required, as you know.

I feel that Congress should not pass any legislation concerning the Fairness Doctrine or related rules -- I feel that the FCC should have flexibility in dealing with the issue.

>>>>>>> I believe that it was the collapse of the radio station “Air America” a Liberal talk station, that has led to this attempt to re-introduce the Fairness Doctrine as a form of de facto censorship. <<<<<<<

I don't think that the issue can be traced to a single radio station or a single talk show -- there is just general recognition of the fact that conservative hosts overwhelmingly dominate the radio talk show business.

>>>>>> It appears that if certain political views can’t compete in the world of ideas, then the solution is to pass a law that forces radio stations to air those views. <<<<<<

As I said, I think that one reason for conservative talk show dominance is that commercial sponsors and broadcasters tend to prefer these shows because these shows tend to take pro-business positions on particular issues, e.g., business taxes, environmental laws, labor laws, the Fairness Doctrine, etc..

>>>>>> Today, Americans have an almost unlimited choice of where to get their information: regular TV, cable TV, regular radio, satellite radio, internet, web-blogs, etc., which makes the Fairness Doctrine unnecessary. <<<<<<

Most of those things require special fees and/or special receiving equipment -- if you just have a regular radio in your car or at the beach, you are still very limited. Also, I am against the "let them eat cake" idea that, say, a political candidate who is personally attacked on a particular program or station is free to reply elsewhere -- I am therefore in favor of restoration of the "political editorial" and "personal attack" rules.

>>>>>>So far, not one single House Democrat has signed the petition to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. <<<<<<<

As I suspected, this is a partisan thing. I am wondering -- if the Fairness Doctrine is supposed to be a Democratic Party thing, then why wasn't the Fairness Doctrine restored by the FCC under Clinton? Maybe that was before conservative dominance of talk shows got so bad.

Also, the bill not only must pass the House but must also pass the Senate -- how come we haven't heard about the Senate version? Also, the bill could be vetoed by a 'Democratic president.

>>>>> It should also be noted that two of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioners have already indicated that they favor the return of the Fairness Doctrine. <<<<<<

That is contrary to what I heard -- I heard that the FCC commissioners are generally opposed because they are Republican appointees.

>>>>>> It does not mean that people or organizations with different views must be provided with a meeting hall, a radio station or a printing press through which to express their ideas. <<<<<<

As I said, the government decides what people's ownership rights are.

Sunday, July 20, 2008 11:13:00 PM  

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