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Argument: Fairness Doctrine protects against odious views gaining legitimacy

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"TV View; Why the Fairness Doctrine is Still Important". New York Times. 15 Sept. 1985 - Microphones and cameras are beguiling. They confer identity and status on the people who use them. Those who believe themselves to be disenfranchised can find a home.

In a way, that's what the dispute over the television coverage of terrorism is all about. Causes, no matter how odious, may be legitimatized by media exposure. Under the Fairness Doctrine, a radio or television station that advocates an odious cause may be held accountable if it does not present a countervailing view. In the absence of the Fairness Doctrine, there is no necessity for it to do so. Indeed, in the absence of any restriction, an odious cause may not only be heard; it may control the radio or television station itself.

Think about it. How about a station devoted solely to anti-Semitic gospel hours, say, or the glories of Weathermen extremists? Neither prospect is that far-fetched. Cruise the airwaves of America. In different parts of the country, at odd hours of the day or night, you may hear programs very much like that now. There is no compelling reason why they should be encouraged. The Fairness Doctrine may be only a standard, and it may not often be enforced. But it does recognize that while speech may be free, it may not always be unbridled. Enlightened public discourse demands a sense of boundaries. Mere possession of a radio or television station does not mean the owner has a sense of boundaries; it means only that he has sufficient money to buy the station.

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