Fear Over De Facto Fairness Doctrine

Broadcasting & Cable reports:

The House Judiciary Committee has put itself squarely in the middle of the network neutrality debate, asserting its jurisdiction in a hearing Friday—“Net Neutrality: Is Antitrust Law More Effective than Regulation in Protecting Consumers and Innovation?”—in its subcommittee on antitrust law.

LBJ (WhiteHouse.gov)

LBJ (WhiteHouse.gov)

And while the subject was network neutrality, Republicans also saw the specter of a dotcom version of the fairness doctrine in calls for FCC regulation to prevent ISPs from favoring one type of speech over another.

The Right Frequency states why its important to be on guard against the Fairness Doctrine, the former FCC regulation requiring equal time on controversial issues that was often abused by public officials – particularly by the Johnson administration, which sought to silence opposition voices on the air.

An excerpt:

The talk radio piece in The Nation ran in the May 25, 1964 issue with the headline, “Hate Clubs of the Air.” It said, “The hate clubs of the air are spewing out a minimum of 6,600 broadcasts a week, carried by more than 1,300 radio and television stations—nearly one out of every five in the nation in a blitz that saturates everyone one of the fifty states with the exception of Maine.”

According to [The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the First Amendment by Fred Friendly], “Because of the close association of James Row with President Johnson and also because of John Bailey’s standing as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, there is little doubt that this contrived scheme had White House approval.”

Bill Ruder, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Johnson administration recalled, “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenge would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.”

The DNC mailed out thousands of copies of Cook’s Nation article to Democratic state and local parties and Democratic officials.

The DNC also mailed the article to radio stations, with a letter from DNC counsel Dan Brightman warning that if Democrats are attacked, demands will be made for equal time.

To learn more about how the federal government bullied opposition voices, read The Right Frequency.

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