The Fairness Doctrine in Broadcasting

Problems and Suggested Courses of Action

by Henry Geller

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Analysis and suggested actions for resolution of the FCC inquiry into the fairness doctrine (Docket No. 19260). The Congressional scheme for broadcasting is a system of short-term licensees obligated to operate in the public interest. Crucial to this operation is a two-fold duty: to devote a reasonable amount of broadcast time to discussion of controversial issues; and to do so fairly, by affording reasonable opportunity for opposing viewpoints. This report suggests several policies regarding both these duties in order to promote the goal of robust debate, including a return to the practice of generally applying the fairness doctrine only at time of license renewal, percentage guidelines for informational programming, and an annual listing of the main fairness efforts on the most important issues covered by the broadcaster. Other policies are suggested regarding rules on personal attacks and political editorializing, staged or slanted news, commercials, and the flat ban on sale of time for controversial issues.

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