FCC to Strike Fairness Doctrine from the Books

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The Federal Communications Commission is set to drive a stake through the heart of the Fairness Doctrine.

Decades after the law was deemed unenforceable, the FCC has finally announced plans to remove all traces of the policy from its federal code.

The Fairness Doctrine was introduced in 1949 in an effort to promote fair and subjective content on broadcast programs.

Broadcasters were required to present multiple sides of controversial issues in a way that was "honest, equitable and balanced."

The FCC ended the doctrine in 1987 over concerns that it stifled free speech. However, the policy was kept in the Code of Federal Regulations, meaning a future administration could theoretically try to enforce the rule.

The latest move by the FCC ends debate over whether the doctrine can or will be reintroduced.

"I fully support deleting the Fairness Doctrine and related provisions form the Code of Federal Regulations, so that there can be no mistake that what has been a dead letter is truly dead," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wrote in a letter dated June 6.

Many conservative broadcasters feared the Fairness Doctrine would resurface and threaten their content.

"The only station to lose its license under the reign of terror of the Fairness Doctrine was a Christian broadcasting station," noted Craig Parshall, senior vice president of the National Religious Broadcasters   

"Would it hurt Christians more than general market broadcasters?  We think so," Parshall said. "Because if you have someone, let's say, who takes the sanctity of life perspective, then they have to bring in someone who's pro-abortion."

"If you have someone who's preaching the Gospel, do you have to bring in an imam if the demand is made from the local mosque?" he asked.

"Those are intractable questions and intractable problems, and we see nothing good in the discussion about reinstating the Fairness Doctrine," he concluded.

Over the years, lawmakers for and against the doctrine have introduced legislation on Capitol Hill. The latest call for the Fairness Doctrine to be reinstated came in January after the Tucson, Ariz., shooting spree.

Opponents say now that it's being deleted, there's less chance it will return. Genachowski  didn't specify when the policy would be removed completely.

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