Barack Obama Still Opposes The Fairness Doctrine

This is from Fox News, which maybe means conservatives will actually pay attention:

President Obama opposes any move to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine, a spokesman told Wednesday.

The statement is the first definitive stance the administration has taken since an aide told an industry publication last summer that Obama opposes the doctrine — a long-abolished policy that would require broadcasters to provide opposing viewpoints on controversial issues.

“As the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told

Obama opposes the Fairness Doctrine. The vast majority of members of Congress from both parties opposes it. The Congressional leadership has said it is not on the table. This still won’t stop the right wing from sending out fund raising letters claiming otherwise.

Tell a conservative that a liberal wants to take away their guns, bibles, or talk radio and you can count on many conservatives falling for it. Alex Koppelman finds some rightwing bloggers are still continuing to promote this manufactured outrage.

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  1. 1
    Ralph says:

    Any word on why Obama opposes reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine? It sounds like a good idea to me, and I can’t see any downside.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    It’s a gray area as it is dealing with public airwaves, but it still raises concerns about interference with free speech. It would also be a fiasco to reinstate as it would mean forcing many established businesses to change their business model. It’s best to keep the government out of these things as much as possible. While there are plenty of problems caused by the misinformation caused by right wing talk radio, the Democrats still could get out a counter message for the 2006 and 2008 elections.

  3. 3
    EmmBee says:

    The fairness doctrine was devised and justified with the argument that there were too few media outlets available for an individual to be exposed to alternative viewpoints.  It was ended when that was no longer the case with the explosion of new media.

    So the original purpose of the fairness doctrine no longer exists, which is very probably why the Obama administration has no interest in re-establishing it.

    However, with the heart-breakingly rapid, lie-filled rise of the Extreme New McCarthyism in the right’s media after Obama’s election and inauguration, I feel that some new type of fairness doctrine needs to be devised and implemented that somehow combats lies and disinformation from all over the political spectrum.

    And because we must do so without infringing on the First Amendment, perhaps a possible answer would be to establish some kind of “factual content rating” or something similar.   Say something like “Grade F” for Fox?

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    In theory it would be great if false information could be exposed but in practice I don’t see how it could be done. Who would decide what is true? A government agency declaring that material critical of the government is false would hardly be a solution. During the Bush administration the false information generally came from right wing sources which passed on administration talking points as fact. How could that be regulated? Fox also presents a different situation than talk radio as it is on cable as opposed to public airwaves, giving far less justification for any government oversight.

  5. 5
    Mary says:

    I hate listening to people repeat Rush’s hot air like it is fact-or anything resembling facts, but I just dont see how the government could feasibly regulate it.  Perhaps someone of means could start a fact or fiction type website, or maybe its time for those that care to publicly hammer any news outlet that tries it.  If they end up looking like idiots, or if they say something that angers their advertisers, then they will be exposed for what they really are.  Unfortunately, sometimes these things are a matter of opinion, and the listener just needs to decide for themselves, ie-is universal healthcare socialism?

  6. 6
    Mark Thompson says:

    Look, the Fairness Doctrine is nothing short of a major free speech problem – and I say that as someone who basically loathes talk radio.  It is government-mandated speech, regardless of the views of the station owner.  Not only is it government-mandated speech, but it also assumes that there are two – and exactly two – equally worthy opinions on every single political issue. 

    To take the issue away from the whole issue of Rush Limbaugh, let me explain it this way.  Let’s say a radio station wanted to broadcast a political talk show with a message that was explicitly populist in the sense of being what we would call economically liberal in today’s parlance and socially conservative (basically an American Hugo Chavez).  What would qualify as an “opposing viewpoint”?  Would it have to be a die-hard libertarian, which would be the most diametrically opposed viewpoint?  Or would any old mainstream liberal or conservative fit the bill?  And isn’t the decision as to which would be the appropriate opposition full of First Amendment problems, being entirely a content based decision?  If the decision were left up to the station owner, how would the government evaluate whether the station owner lived up to his responsibilities in providing an “opposing viewpoint” without getting into an unconstitutional evaluation of the content of the speech?

  7. 7
    Mark Thompson says:

    One more thing – Yeah, I know that we’re talking about nominally “public” airwaves.  But that really doesn’t make a lick of difference – it’s still not a reasonable “time,place, and manner” restriction.  Think about it this way – what would you say if Congress passed a law saying that protests on Capitol Hill were strictly prohibited at all times unless it can guarantee that there will be a counter-protest of equal size?  And regardless of what you would say, the fact is that there would be no possible way of enforcing it in a Constitutional manner, so it would get overturned by the SCOTUS in about as long as it took me to write this paragraph.

  8. 8
    EmmBee says:

    Ron and others, I really think it could be done (see my comments above).  Obviously, you couldn’t do it in real-time or on any other very short-term basis, but consider the GAO: I’ve never encountered any credible argument that the GAO is anything but remarkably successful in the intellectual honesty and lack of bias in their reporting, even under the Bush Administration.

    Since they can do it, it is therefore a given that it CAN be done.

    Now, I’m not specifically suggesting that the GAO should take up the task or any other government agency for that matter (perhaps instead something like or Public Citizen), but a quarterly report of the last 3 months’ factual accuracy rating is something that is both possible and, as far as I can tell, doesn’t interfere with any constitutional right.

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:


    Fact checking is really different from the intent of the Fairness Doctrine to require balanced opinion, but I do agree that the misinformation spread as news is a far more serious problem.

    There is already a considerable amount of fact checking done by the media and independent organizations. It would be more difficult for government to do this. There is no doubt that the Bush administation would have politicized any government agency doing this, as they did with so many others, and it would have been worthless.

    Even if we had objective fact checking from a government agency, those who currently believe right wing nonsense will not believe it if a government agency says that attacks against Obama are untrue. The wingnuts already have conspiracy theories, based upon untrue information, to claim that Factcheck is in Obama’s pocket. A government agency would be trusted even less.

    There’s no real advantage of developing yet another government agency to fact check news. We are best off leaving this to private organizations, which eliminates any question of government excerting pressure on news organizations. We just have to hope that over time more people pay attention to information which debunks false right wing claims.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:


    Most likely they will settle for opposing views based upon usual party lines, without any good way to handle opinion which does not fit into this. This could limit the problem of one party’s opinion being distrubuted more than the other’s (ignoring all the problems of using government to accomplish this) but does exacerbate the problem of falsely dividing everything into two, and only two, viewpoints.

    There would not be the same Constitutional problems for regulating the public airwaves as there would be for regulating protests in this manner, but even is something could get by under the Constitution (considering we had the Fairness Doctrine in the past) this does not mean it is a good idea.

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