The Fairness Doctrine began as a matter of general policy at the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) in 1949 and was applied on a case-by-case basis through 1967. The doctrine (policy) at the time was intended to have licensed broadcasters air "...controversial matters of public interest...", and to provide "contrasting views..." of those matters for public consumption.
Essentially, if a radio or television broadcaster had, for example, a show featuring a clearly 'right' or 'left' opinion about politics, they were then required to afford an opportunity for an opposing point of view to be aired.
For nearly twenty years, licensed broadcasters were able to self-police the policy and went largely unchallenged for violations. Of course there were only a few radio and television stations to be monitored and broadcast speech was clearly kinder and far less abrasive and challenging than it is today. Then, in 1969, as airwaves became busier with more stations and opinions for the public to consider, the doctrine met it's first big challenge.
Billy James Hargis was discussing a book on his daily Christian Crusade radio broadcast in Red Lion, Pennsylvania. The book, written by journalist Fred Cook and titled Goldwater: Extremist of the Right was taken to task by Hargis and personal attacks against Fred Cook ensued. Cook sued and in an 8-0 Supreme Court decision, was awarded free airtime on Hargis' show to respond to the attacks. Who in 1969 could have known how broadcasting would grow?
By 1984, several significant court cases were launched and won in the name of "fairness" and broadcasters were increasingly burdened to be careful in providing alternative points of view and opinion. In fact, the doctrine became so oppressive that airing a point of view about politics or religion for example was avoided altogether. That is, until Ronald Reagan had something to say in the mid 1980's.
Under the direction of chairman Mark Fowler, the F.C.C. began repealing parts of the Fairness Doctrine in the early 80's and in 1985 announced that the policy violated the first amendment. With the advent of teletext and a mass-media approach to news and opinion, Reagan vetoed legislation to keep the doctrine alive and in 1987, closed the book on an old idea that just couldn't work any longer. Just like Church, or the public square, or a particular radio news show, if you didn't like what was being said (within the realm of decency of course), switch it off or walk away.
So why does all this history matter anyway?
As recently as two weeks ago, Democrats Jeff Bingaman (NM), and Nancy Pelosi (San Francisco, CA) have voiced publicly their support for re-institution of the "doctrine". Supported by other powerful leaders in the Democratic party like Richard Durbin (IL) and Harry Reid (NV), it seems that Democrats by and large support "fainess" in all media calling for equal time on radio and TV shows, in newspapers and in Internet blogs, discussions, and reports.
What this essentially means is that if you like Rush Limbaugh (I don't particularly), you will be forced to listen as he makes room for Democrats on his daily radio show. Shawn Hannity cannot espouse Christian values in political discussion without allowing for an atheist point of view in the same regard. Christian radio like Dobson's Focus on the Family will be forced to allow the promotion of non-Christian thoughts and ideas on each show!
What will happen when (not 'if') your local pastor is told not to preach on monogamous marriage only between "one man and one woman" without allowing opposing views in the pulpit? What happens when any preaching or public denial against homosexuality is met with a charge of "hate speech" unless equal time is afforded? These are not a stretch of the imagination. This is the reality of current proposals for the re-institution of fairness in the public square.
Let us consider what the Bible has to say and how such legislation might cause harm, in particular, to Christians. In I Timothy 5:14 Paul says young women should "marry, bear children" and "guide the house". Oh, ohh... can't teach that any more without allowing for feminist and lesbian points of view.
Unfortunately, the standard of lifelong, traditional marriage as the foundation of family life in our nation is under attack. So says a recent article on the Focus on the Family Website. Under proposed legislation, this article could not exist for you to read without opposing opinion.
We need go little further to state the terribly obvious; the words and teachings of Paul in the Christian Bible will no longer be attacked because we will no longer be allowed to teach them to the millions who learn about Christianity over the airwaves and in our Churches. The very words of Jesus Himself will necessarily be restricted as "hate speech" for the same reasons.
Our voices in politics and the Christian perspective will be shouted down in the public square as government mandates for equal time force us to teach the opposition's views immediately next to our own!
The "Fairness Doctrine" under the guise of such labels as the "Media Ownership Reform Act of 2005" or MORA, for example, has been fiercely debated and proposed for several years. Efforts to 'slip' legislation into larger bills and proposals however have, up until now, been successfully thwarted. But...
The looming possibility of a Democratic "Super Majority" (control of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency) from this election makes it essential for sleeping Christians to awaken and meet a great challenge; defeating such a possibility permanently.
Call or email your Congress-person and Senator. Use websites such as The Heritage Foundation or Focus on the Family to inform yourselves and your friends of the obvious threat to our right to religious and personal freedom.
Write to http://speaker.house.gov/contact/ and tell Nancy Pelosi what a bad idea this is. But above all, do something!
Remaining silent is not an option as we, individuals and families that operate from a core worldview, are pressed ever further into a corner from which we may not be allowed to leave.
Of course, that's just what I think. What about you?