Conservatives In The Media Can Rest A Bit Easier Today

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Conservatives In The Media Can Rest A Bit Easier Today

Fri Feb 27, 2009 @ 02:40PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Rush For the past year, conservatives have complained ad nauseam about the impending return of the "Fairness Doctrine." But it seems clear by yesterday's 87-11 vote in the Senate to explicitly ban any revival that the hullabaloo was a little bit on the silly side.

What exactly is the "Fairness Doctrine"?

It's a much maligned FCC policy implemented from the 1940s to the 1980s that required public broadcasters to air "balanced" coverage of controversial issues. Some see the "Fairness Doctrine," unenforced since 1987, as a potential tool to clamp down on the success and influence of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and right-wing radio.

During the campaign, President Obama had expressed his view that he didn't support the return of the FCC policy. Conservatives didn't believe him.

Time will tell if they give him a little bit more credit now. Some on the right are pointing to an amendment to yesterday's vote that directs the FCC to promote diversity in media ownership. They see this amendment as a bad sign that the administration will achieve its ends through other means.

We'll also be watching how yesterday's vote impact the FCC's ability to regulate the airwaves. 

During debate, some Democrats argued that preventing the FCC from implementing any "public interest" rules might prevent the FCC from doing its business on other ends, such as regulating rules over children's programming, enforcing public safety protocol, or any future bit of business. Recently, for example, the Senate has held hearings on possibly regulating violence in broadcast media. 

The FCC always seems to walk a slippery slope when doing anything these days. Any action typically sparks big court challenges. We'll probably see less of that in the coming years. The administration seems serious about fostering diversity in the media, but it's approach on many other issues tends to be quite laissez-faire.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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