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Argument: Fairness Doctrine does not expose broadcasters to risk of litigation

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"TV View; Why the Fairness Doctrine is Still Important". New York Times. 15 Sept. 1985 - Broadcasters, meanwhile, say the Fairnesss Doctrine imposes an unfair burden. They complain that it allows them to be harassed by nuisance suits and plagued by partisans who claim they do not present both sides of an issue. In 1974, the F.C.C. responded to similar complaints from broadcasters by saying that these burdens simply run with the territory. Last month's F.C.C. report reversed this position. It said the burdens were onerous, and that the fear of attracting them imposed a chilling effect on broadcast journalism. It apparently causes the broadcasters to stay away from controversial issues.

The broadcasters who feel the chill, however, do not seem to be responding to much that is real, and it is almost as if the F.C.C. wants to suspend the Fairness Doctrine to help them overcome their own timidity. The F.C.C. report is insistent on the broadcasters' fearfulness, but nowhere are we persuaded that the broadcasters have much to be fearful about. Fairness Doctrine requirements are easily met. Broadcasters, when challenged, must show only that they acted in good faith. This does not require them to grant equal time - that applies only to political candidates - but merely a reasonable opportunity for an opposing viewpoint on an issue. Traditionally, the F.C.C. has interpreted this loosely; a reasonable opportunity is determined largely by the broadcaster.

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