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You think the Fairness Doctrine is unconstitutional

  1. Aug 13, 2008 #1
    There is not anything written in the constitution that says the government must set rules for radio stations that require radio stations to allow a "balance view " of political opinions. I also want to add that their isn't anything constitutional about the government forming a communications department like the FCC that oversees and regulates the used of a radio spectrum and telecommunications , but I will only focus on discussing the Fairness Doctrine.

    The Fairness Doctrine is unconstitutional to me because it tells radio producers the amount of content you are allowed to play on the radio. That imposition violates the First amendment , plain and simple. If most radio listeners want to hear one political perspective more often than a different political perspective, then the radio producer or radio host should air the political perspective most favored by his audience. Pepsi is more of a popular soft drink than Coca Cola, but should congress intervene and write a law that says 50 % of the citizens must by Pepsi and the other half be require to buy coke simply because makes up the majority of soft drink revenues in the country ? I think not and the same logic should apply to radio.
     
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  3. Aug 13, 2008 #2

    turbo

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    You forget one little detail. The broadcast frequencies are a limited resource (which is currently pushing the conversion to DTV) and the broadcasters get those allocations essentially for free, with very minimal restrictions. You might want to give some concrete examples of where and when the fairness doctrine limits the broadcasters' freedom to choose and air content. There are radio stations running shows that are so right-wing that they deride average GOP congressmen and senators for being "liberals". The government does not force such stations to forgo their format and run shows by Al Franken or Randi Rhodes.
     
  4. Aug 13, 2008 #3

    russ_watters

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    Well, I don't know what they originally paid for them or what the terms were, but the spectrum that is being reallocated is being bought/leased (?) for millions: http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2008/02/11/daily73.html

    My personal opinion (and I hadn't heard of this before) is that it is an empy rule that doesn't actually have any impact. That said, I do think it is unconstitutional because free speech limitations are never allowed to be content-based.
     
  5. Aug 13, 2008 #4
    I'll post directly what is in the Fairness Doctrine according to Wikipedia:
    Okay I had part of that wrong , the FCC only requires radiobroadcasters to present contrasting views on the airwaves. Nevertheless, that is still in violation of the First amendment, since the FCC is attempting to control what radiobroadcasters should play on the air. Proponents argue that the Fairness Doctrine was introduce to ensure that the public hear a fair share of all viewpoints, but should the FCC have the authority over radiobroad casters to defined what is fair? Of course not. The radio spectrum is a medium that can be freely manipulated by any one, just like the Internet. There was a court case decades ago that questioned whether the fairness doctrine was constitutionalRed Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission where a representative for Red Lion Broadcasting Co. argued that the government should not have the authoritative to say what is free speech and what is not free speech because it would violated the first amendment.
     
  6. Aug 13, 2008 #5
    No, it manifestly is not. That's why we have an FCC in the first place. If everyone were free to manipulate the radio spectrum, nobody would be able to use any of the spectrum for anything (except a tiny minority who could afford transmitter so powerful as to block everyone else out).
     
  7. Aug 13, 2008 #6
    There is a tiny minority people , who own broadband internet , yet billions of people are able to log on to this particular internet everyday. The internet was originally operated by the internet and it was very slow and their were only a few thousand websites. Now look how the internet has evolved since its be solely in the hands of private telecommunications companies? There might be more people able to make use of the radio spectrum if the FCC did not intervene. Look what wonders came for the phone company onces it was deregulated. Before, the phone company was deregulated, it used to be a monopoly.

    The FCC has fined radio stations hundred of thousands of dollars because radio commentators made 'obscene' or 'offensive' comments. Even the late comedian George Carlin , as many of you may know, had to take the FCC to the supreme court concerning George Carlin's 'seven dirty word' routine.
     
  8. Aug 13, 2008 #7

    LowlyPion

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution#Content_regulation
     
  9. Aug 14, 2008 #8
    Regulation of radio broadcasting was important because at one time it was a major part of the country's communications infrastructure. With a limited amount of possible seperate frequencies, further limited by certain sections being taken up by police and other safety and government services, it was thought that regulation of content would be important to prevent monopolization and manipulation of mass media and the primary source of communications and information distribution.
    Any more this isn't so important since the spectrum of communications and information distribution media is far greater and radio is only a small, and often considered outmoded, portion of it.
    So any more I don't think that the fairness doctrine is necessary.
     
  10. Aug 14, 2008 #9

    russ_watters

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    You're missing the point. The internet has no physical limitation on bandwidth. The EM spectrum does. It is simply not physically possible for the FCC to allow unfettered usage with the EM spectrum.

    Just look at what happens if the FCC screws up and grants people access to bands that are too close together: http://news.cnet.com/Nextels-radio-interference-plan--a-tough-call/2100-1039_3-5196027.html
     
  11. Aug 14, 2008 #10

    vanesch

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    Also let us not forget that broadcasting communication such as radio was (thought to be) a major vector of the rise of Nazism in Germany for instance. So after WWII, it is comprehensible that one wanted to avoid a too monopolizing mass communication medium.

    That said, even today, or especially today, there are people who think that there should be some constitutional guarantee of diversification of press and TV/radio, although it is not clear how exactly it should be implemented.
     
  12. Aug 14, 2008 #11
    Russ has already explained why your analogy is inapplicable. Look up "tragedy of the commons" for more reading.

    I don't like FCC prudes censoring radio content any more than the next guy, but that's a very, very different matter than FCC control of spectrum allocation. The former is unwelcome paternalism, the latter is a mandatory part of keeping critical national infrastructure operational. One can demand that the FCC butt out of content issues and adopt policies to encourage greater competition, innovation and market flexibility without going off the deep end and insisting that regulations disappear entirely. That's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If you don't believe me, try spending some time in cities near areas where the FCC has no mandate (i.e., border towns). You'll find that all of the radio stations you can receive emanate from accross the border, and that the lawful owners (or, letters) of the American radio spectrum are screwed.
     
  13. Aug 14, 2008 #12

    LowlyPion

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    It may be that today there is greater diversity in the distribution of information, but the principle still stands that broadcast frequencies are a scarce resource, insofar as radio broadcast is concerned, and it has been ruled that as such the Congress has the right to regulate, which it still does, both as its interstate commerce, as well as to insure that there is opportunity to present balanced points of view.

    I think the Red Lion v. FCC ruling, pretty much spells out this apparent exception to free speech that the Supreme Court has established in recognizing that in conferring a right to utilize a scarce resource, the licensee also undertakes, as a part of that license, becoming a guarantor of the public trust, in insuring that the public's access to all views on issues of public interest are not dominated solely by the views of the broadcaster. If that responsibility is too burdensome, and they do not want to agree to such terms, I suppose that broadcasters could choose alternate commercial opportunities and not sign licenses.

    Here is a copy of that decision by the Court:
    http://epic.org/free_speech/red_lion.html
     
  14. Aug 14, 2008 #13
    Ideologically speaking I would agree that we should make sure that information over airwaves be reported in a balanced manner. The thing is how many liberal politically oriented and news radio shows are there? I've only heard a couple that weren't entertainment oriented. Most news and talk radio is conservative because the vast majority of people who still listen to news and politics on the radio are conservatives. Otherwise they likely just listen to NPR and/or BBC. There just doesn't seem to be enough of a market to make it a commercially viable venture.
     
  15. Aug 14, 2008 #14

    LowlyPion

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    I think the standard is "offer the opportunity for balance", not that any particular report could not be biased. Just that time be made available for counter views.

    I like to think of the US Constitution as generally set up to protect the many from the tyranny of the few as well as protecting the few from the tyranny of the many.
     
  16. Aug 15, 2008 #15
    It's right here.
    Article I Section 1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

    Like it or not, Article 1 Section 1, again.

    Maybe. By first ammendment, broadcasters were not forced to present, themselves, opionions they oppose. They were forced, to at most, let others present their opinions.

    So taking action, TV stations will find some straw man they can cut up, or any one of the innumerable endruns. If His Grand Eblobiator of the FM Waves complains so much, it is because it would cut into his mouth time. Forced to it, he'd find his own endrun.

    Though, if history is any standard, more virulent anti-free speech laws would be expected, under a democrate controlled congress and presidency.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2008
  17. Aug 15, 2008 #16
    I suggest you take a look at the article on the Enumerated powers of the Legislative Branch, and the Enumerated Power section doesn't say anything about congress regulating communications airwaves. Congress is allowed to regulate our naval forces, and the use of land but not telecommunications. Nor does the Enumerate clause say anything about congress shall make sure that radio broadcasters air 'balance' political views on radio.


    Article 1 Section 1 is only describing the kinds of power the legislative branch of the Federal government are allowed to have over the other two branches of the federal government. (executive and judicial). It also says in Section 1 of Article 1 that although legislative powers have the authority to investigate private affairs , there are limitations . This section of the article mainly describes The Legislative Branch ability to legislate and investigate, it barely describes its ability to regulate. Recently , (circa 1934) the courts granted regulatory powers to congress.

    Also in Article 2 of the Constitution which mainly describes the powers of the executive branch. Article 2 explicits stays that the Executive Branch can: make treaties , the power to appoint public officials like judges, and command the military and grant pardons.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2008
  18. Aug 15, 2008 #17

    russ_watters

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    I understand that that's your opinion, but do you have a logical basis for it? Something from the Constitution that would imply it?
    There are tons, just none of them as popular as some of the major conservative ones.
    Agreed.
     
  19. Aug 15, 2008 #18

    russ_watters

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    I don't think that is applicable to the statement you were responding to. It is understood that Congress has broad legislative power based on that clause. What isn't clear (well - it's clear to me...) is how such legislation could not be a violation of the 1st amendment. That's what this thread is about.
     
  20. Aug 15, 2008 #19
    You all want it both ways. A liberal interpretation of the first amendment, and a Libertarian interpretation of the Constitution without regard to case law. why ever did I step into this political thread.
     
  21. Aug 15, 2008 #20

    russ_watters

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    The first amendment is part of the Constitution.

    Anyway, Article I, Sect 1 doesn't stand on it's own. It's clear by the wording that it only exists to state that Congress has legislative authority. There is nothing to interpret in that section. Authority over what is in other parts of the Constitution. And the limits are in the Bill of rights.

    You want substantiation of my statement about content reglation. Here's some:
    For newspapers, the issue is crystal clear: you can't regulat content. For radio/tv, the wik seems to contradict itself.
     
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