FCC Chairman Opposes Reinstitution of Fairness Doctrine

July 26th, 2007 12:51 PM

Americans interested in free speech got a boost Monday when the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, came out strongly against any reimplementation of the Fairness Doctrine.

As reported by the Associated Press Thursday (emphasis added):

Martin, in a letter written this week to Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and made public Thursday, said the agency found no compelling reason to revisit its 1987 decision that enforcing the federal rule was not in the public interest.

This letter (PDF available here) quite supported the views concerning this issue being expressed by Congressional Republicans in the past few weeks since this matter took center stage (emphasis added):

In my judgment, the events of the last two decades have confirmed the wisdom of the Commission's decision to abolish the Fairness Doctrine. Discussion of controversial issues over the airwaves has flourished absent regulatory constraints, and the public now enjoys access to an ever-expanding range of views and opinions. Indeed, with the continued proliferation of additional sources of information and programming, including satellite broadcasting and the Internet, the need for the Fairness Doctrine has lessened ever further since 1987. In short, I see no compelling reason to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in today's broadcast environment, and believe that such a step would inhibit the robust discussion of issues of public concern over the nation's airwaves.

Martin's correspondence was in response to a July 19, 2007 letter from Congressmen Joe Barton (R-Texas), Fred Upton (R-Michigan), Mike Pence (R-Indiana), and Greg Walden (R-Oregon), wherein his opinion was sought concerning "the appropriateness of the Fairness Doctrine in today's broadcast environment."

After receiving the Chairman's letter, Congressmen Pence and Walden issued the following joint statement (emphasis added):

"We commend the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission for his commitment to free and independent airwaves in America. Chairman Martin's comments should encourage millions who cherish the vigorous debate of American talk radio. Nevertheless it is imperative that Congress pass the Broadcaster Freedom Act to ensure that no future administration or FCC chairman have the power to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine without an act of Congress. Congress should heed the call of Chairman Martin and permanently reject the Fairness Doctrine by enacting the Broadcast Freedom Act into law."

Hear, hear!