The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Fairness doctrine: some material

Regularly to be heard on lefty lips is some sort of reference to the Once and Future Doctrine.

(The Lost Cause has generally been a Southern, post-bellum, consolation, which the GOP leadership has appropriated along with the Southern conservatives dumped by Kennedy and Johnson. Federal homo-marriage amendment, Terri Schiavo 'relief' bill...

The fairness doctrine is a lefty equivalent.)

Perversely, there seem to be one or two interesting-looking articles on the doctrine [1] that may come in hand if a revivification ritual can be found at some stage:

A 1993 Georgetown Law Journal piece by Randall Rainey The Public's Interest in Public Affairs Discourse, Democratic Governance, and Fairness in Broadcasting: A Critical Review of the Public Interest Duties of the Electronic Media.

An article (c1997) by Adrian Cronauer (the Good Morning Vietnam guy - became a lawyer) The Fairness Doctrine: A Solution in Search of a Problem from the Federal Communications Law Journal.

An article The Rhetoric of Legal Backfire by Robert Hillman has a short section on the fairness doctrine (the accompanying notes).

  1. In addition to one I mentioned on May 8.


Though the slide towards abolition of the fairness doctrine was, it seems, essentially an affair between the FCC, the courts and the broadcasters [1], there was a fair amount of activity in Congress in trying to restore the doctrine by legislation.

For example, in 1987, Fritz Hollings' S 742 passed the Senate (April 9) 59-31, D41-6, R18-25 [2].

Amongst the Dem naysayers were John Stennis (in his last term) and Max Baucus.

Jesse Helms was amongst the bill's GOP supporters.

Reagan vetoed the bill, and it was the high-water-mark of success on the issue. A FAIR piece from 1994 identifies a bill that passed the House in 1989 but got no further [3]; and then, in 1993, we get the Hush Rush Law - as detailed in this Rush-friendly piece - the Fairness in Broadcasting Act of 1993 HR 1985 and S 333. (Neither bill got reported out, so Clinton was never put to the veto test.)

  1. Cliff Notes: the courts chiselled away at the validity of the scarcity argument, the broadcasters applied pressure to the FCC, the FCC were happy to use the cover from the courts.

  2. THOMAS has neither roll call list or bill text. Voteview has the first though not the second.

  3. I can find the Oxley Amendment to HR 3299 which sought to delete provisions that codify the "fairness doctrine" which required broadcasters to air conflicting views on issues of public importance.


The (FCC's) 1989 brief in opposition to the grant of certiorari in Syracuse Peace Council v FCC, the case that put the tin lid on the fairness doctrine, judicially speaking. (Cert was denied.)

(1989 is online prehistory, so, for that reason alone...)

Liberal druthering - including on Bill Moyers' ex-show.

A 1996 piece is agin, but has dead-tree references.

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