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December 9, 2008 - Mark Wilcox
I can't help but be amused about all the talk these days about the possible reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. It seems there are some who view the Democrats recent victories as a mandate for bringing back some of the policies tossed out by GOP administrations. Among them the so-called Fairness Doctrine. It's interesting that all this talk is coming up from everyone but the Obama Administration who has nothing about bringing it back. I was traveling during the day time recently and came upon a Christian radio talk show where the doctrine was the topic of discussion. The host was convinced that not only would radio as we know it, but religion in general and pretty much life as we know it would end if the Fairness Doctrine was brought back. The host ranted that people wouldn't be allowed to talk about God or anything else that mattered, if the Democrats had their way. I find the whole thing interesting because I started my career in radio in 1982 when the Fairness Doctrine was in effect. As far as I remember, the only way it affected anything was that we had to attach a disclaimer at the end programs offering to provide equal time for opposing viewpoints. I just don't remember it being a big deal. In fact, until the Reagan Administration, through the FCC, abolished it in 1987, roughly five years into my broadcasting career, no station I worked at had to provide air time in accordance with the doctrine. The radio host I listened to, as well as others such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Rielly, warn that Christian and conservative radio will be outlawd under a new Fairness Doctrine. To me this is just fear mongering. Ever hear of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Oral Roberts, Rex Hubbard and Billy Graham? All of them Christian broadcasters who did pretty well under the original Fairness Doctrine. And it seems to me that conservative commentators like Paul Harvey and William F. Buckley were able to find audiences. In my mind the Fairness Doctrine will not stop anybody from saying what they want on radio or TV. It would have an impact, however on the Rush Limbaughs of the broadcast world. The "Lovable Fuzzball" will still be able to say whatever he wants about whomever he wants. But under a new Fairness Doctrine, some of his targets will be able to fire back. And is that really so horrible.
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