How "Fair" is the Fairness Doctrine?

By Doug Newman

December 2, 2002
Published in the Denver Rocky Mountain News.

Letters to the Editor
Denver Rocky Mountain News
P.O. Box 719
Denver, CO 80201


In her letter of December 1, Joanne Marie Roll states that we should "reinstitute the fairness doctrine on talk radio during the critical election period." From a month before the election to when the various contests are decided, she says that Republican and Democratic talk show hosts should split airtime 50-50. This, she believes, would lead to more balanced election results. It also prompts several questions.

1) What about representatives of the Libertarian, Reform, Constitution, Natural Law and Green parties? Don't they deserve their fair share of airtime, too? Excluding them is just not fair. Or are these parties not big enough to qualify for fair treatment?

2) Was Ms. Roll calling for the fairness doctrine in 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected along with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate? Rush Limbaugh was as popular as ever. What influence does Limbaugh have now that he did not have then?

3) What about other media? Shall Democrats and Republicans also be required to split things 50-50 in the newspapers, news magazines, and on the evening news? Or shall the fairness doctrine only apply to Republican dominated media?

4) What about the internet? Shall some Ministry of Fairness monitor countless web sites to ensure that their "balance" is pleasing to Democratic sensibilities? And how on earth will the Fairness Police keep on top of all the new political web sites that are sprouting up each day?

5) Why does Ms. Roll want to apply the fairness doctrine only 30 days before elections? Many voters make their decisions long before that time. Wouldn't their votes be tainted because they made their decisions when Republicans ruled talk radio?

I am a Libertarian, and I have no enthusiasm for either of the privileged parties. However, country and constitution supersede party. The Republicans came out ahead this time. And while I wish more Libertarians had won, I am not about to shred what is left of the First Amendment because life did not arrange itself in accordance with my desires.

Douglas F. Newman

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Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman