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Argument: Fairness Doctrine does not require equal time for viewpoints

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Steve Rendall. "How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back". Common Dreams. 12 Feb. 2005 - citizen groups used the Fairness Doctrine as a tool to expand speech and debate. For instance, it prevented stations from allowing only one side to be heard on ballot measures. Over the years, it had been supported by grassroots groups across the political spectrum, including the ACLU, National Rifle Association and the right-wing Accuracy In Media.

Typically, when an individual or citizens group complained to a station about imbalance, the station would set aside time for an on-air response for the omitted perspective: “Reasonable opportunity for presentation of opposing points of view,” was the relevant phrase. If a station disagreed with the complaint, feeling that an adequate range of views had already been presented, the decision would be appealed to the FCC for a judgment.

According to Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of MAP, scheduling response time was based on time of day, frequency and duration of the original perspective. “If one view received a lot of coverage in primetime,” Schwartzman told Extra!, “then at least some response time would have to be in primetime. Likewise if one side received many short spots or really long spots.” But the remedy did not amount to equal time; the ratio of airtime between the original perspective and the response “could be as much as five to one,” said Schwartzman.

As a guarantor of balance and inclusion, the Fairness Doctrine was no panacea. It was somewhat vague, and depended on the vigilance of listeners and viewers to notice imbalance. But its value, beyond the occasional remedies it provided, was in its codification of the principle that broadcasters had a responsibility to present a range of views on controversial issues.


Jeff Cohen. "The "Hush Rush" Hoax: Limbaugh on the Fairness Doctrine". FAIR.org. November/December 1994 - The Fairness Doctrine doesn't require that each program be internally balanced, or mandate "equal time": It would not require that balance in the overall program line-up be anything close to 50/50. It merely prohibits a station from blasting away day after day from one perspective, without any opposing views.

It would not "hush Rush," but it may get stations that offer only a constant diet of Limbaugh and fellow right-wingers to diversify their line-up a bit. Limbaugh was uttering nonsense when he claimed (Limbaugh Letter, 10/93) that to balance his show under the Fairness Doctrine, station owners "will have to go out and get two liberal shows. Or maybe three. Even three might not be enough."

Various citizen groups have used the Fairness Doctrine as a tool to expand speech and debate -- not restrict it. For example, it prevents stations from allowing only one side to be heard on ballot measures. (A study found that the abolition of the doctrine had disastrous effects for democratic debate in 1992 ballot measures.) Over the years, the doctrine has been supported by hundreds of grassroots groups across the political spectrum, including the ACLU, National Rifle Association and the right-wing Accuracy In Media.


"Broadcasting, reintroducing the Fairness Doctrine". Debatabase. 27 Aug. 2008 - when the Fairness Doctrine was in operation the FCC used a very light touch in order to ensure balanced content. Far from insisting on equal time for all possible viewpoints, it simply required that some time be given to different opinions and gave people a platform from which to speak out when they perceived that coverage was biased. After all, similar requirements for fair access operate in many other countries (e.g. the UK, Australia) without any problems.

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