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At The American Conservative, Jesse Walker explains how mandating political balance over the airwaves mocks the First Amendment.

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  1. Nice article. Is there any evidence that the Fairness Doctrine ever worked, i.e., did the supposed ability to respond to an on air attack ever change public opinion on an issue, or help get a politician elected? It would seem that giving equal time to respond is like giving a slot on the correction page to rebut a front page headline.

  2. Jesse Walker,

    Superb article. I particularly appreciated the historical narrative.

  3. A) it won’t pass

    B) even if it does, the Supreme Court won’t uphold it

    C) that’s what I said about McCain Feingold

  4. Now that the media is not limited to the airwaves alone (which the government had to regulate to some degree) the Fairness Doctrine makes less sense.

  5. Now that the media is not limited to the airwaves alone…

    1. “Media” is a plural word.

    2. Airwaves are a medium.

    3. Print preceded radio broadcasting.

  6. Media is a plurual word but “the media” refers to a singular concept – the group of people who report news.

    But yes, I should not have implied that the airwaves were the only news medium. But it was the nature of broadcasting that led to the Fairness Doctrine.

  7. But it was the nature of broadcasting that led to the Fairness Doctrine.

    No, a lot of gabble about the Nature of Broadcasting was the pretext for the Fairness Doctrine.

    What led to the Fairness Doctrine was a bunch of elitist authoritarian a-holes who saw a chance to exert control over the national discourse, and took it.

  8. R C Dean,

    That’s a perfect summation of Jesse’s article.

  9. 2. Airwaves are a medium.

    Is that because everything there well done is also rare?

    P.S. — As Momma used to say, strike a happy medium and you get an angry spiritualist.

    Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

  10. “Is there any evidence that the Fairness Doctrine ever worked, i.e., did the supposed ability to respond to an on air attack ever change public opinion on an issue, or help get a politician elected?”

    You need to differentiate the Fairness Doctrine (an FCC quasi-regulation) from the statutory equal time, equal access, and personal attack provisions, which are still in force.

  11. “[Firestone] would later tell Friendly, “Perhaps in the light of Watergate, our tactics were too aggressive, but we were up against ultra-right preachers who were saying vicious things about Kennedy and Johnson.”

    Let’s see, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations created some of the powers that Nixon later was pilloried for using. The Dem administrations are to be forgiven because they were using these powers against “vicious” people, whereas Nixon was using them against the Forces of Light.

    An abuse of power is an abuse of power, the ethics of it does not change depending on what group it is being used against.

  12. Very good article, as others have said.

    I live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and WGCB is quite popular here. As an atheist I find their programming to be humorous at best (and combative to my interests at worst), but I’m glad they fought the good fight back in the late ’60s. I wonder how aware folks around here are of the role “the Jesus channel” has played in First Amendment jurisprudence.

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