We're familiar with today's arguments concerning the Fairness Doctrine. The general consensus that seems to prevail goes something like: "Keep government regulation out and let the market decide." But what happens if there is more going on here that is perpetuating this one-sided on-air political dog-and-pony show than just the "market?"
Rich McClear, who was a radio station manager, offers his recollections about that period when the Fairness Doctrine was in place, on the New York Radio Message Board (12/09/09). Although he claims that there were occasionally complaints, his recollection of the Fairness Doctrine as basically a benign, unobtrustive instrument is similar to that of many New York listeners. He titled his remarks, "Bring Back the Fairness Doctrine Now!"
I managed stations in the day of the fairness doctrine, and while I was happy to see it go I have to admit that it was never much of a burden. There was no big brother monitoring me. The fairness doctrine meant that I kept the whole idea of balance in my mind running the station. The doctrine did not call for stopwatch equal time. But somewhere in my program day I had to allow for other points of view.
The biggest complaints came from the right. I ran a station in a pulp mill town and at times when I had Congressman Miller or Senator Tsongas on talking about clear cutting I would get a call saying I was biased, violating the fairness doctrine. I could easily show that I also had our Alaska delegation on who had the pro development point of view. Sometimes it was a pain, but never a major pain.
Now that it is gone I realize how mistaken I was in wanting it to go. The airwaves are public property. A licensee is an agent of the government, in a way, managing a public resource. For that licensee to systematically deny certain points of view on the public's air is tantamount to a government agent censoring the airwaves.
Bring back the fairness doctrine. Now I will probably have my station's NAB membership canceled.
The Flawed Debate about the Fairness Doctrine
Bring Back the Fairness Doctrine
Forget the Fairness Doctrine