By Eriq Gardner
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