FCC Chief Agrees to Delete Fairness Doctrine From Federal Rules

Wednesday, 08 Jun 2011 03:09 PM

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Calling the Fairness Doctrine a “dead letter,” the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has agreed to excise all references to it from federal regulations.

Julius Genachowski’s move came in response to a request from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

The congressmen noted in their letter last month that President Barack Obama had issued an executive order to federal agencies to remove outdated and unnecessary regulations and that the Fairness Doctrine “would seem like an easy place to start since the FCC has already abandoned them.”

Julius Genachowski, FCC, Fairness Doctrine
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski: Fairness Doctrine discourages free speech. (Getty Images Photo)
In response, Genachowski said he has long opposed the Fairness Doctrine and said it “holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas.”

“I fully support deleting the Fairness Doctrine and related provisions from the Code of Federal Regulations, so that there can be no mistake that what has been a dead letter is truly dead,” he wrote. “I look forward to effectuating this change when acting on the staff’s recommendations and anticipate that the process can be completed in the near future.”

The Fairness Doctrine’s origins date to the late 1940s. The measure, which required broadcasters to present a balanced view of both sides of controversial issues, was repealed by the FCC in 1987. Its repeal is often credited with the rise of talk radio. Fears of its revival as a means of stifling conservative talk have sprung up periodically, most recently after the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, R-Ariz.

Although Upton said he is “heartened” by Genachowski’s opposition to the Fairness Doctrine and his vow to remove it from the books, the Michigan Republican is taking no chances.

“When precisely will you eliminate the Fairness Doctrine and related regulations? What is involved? Do you have the support of your fellow commissioners? How long will it take?” he fired back in a response that Walden joined.

Genachowski’s letter agreeing to eliminate Fairness Doctrine references also said the FCC is making progress in identifying and eliminating antiquated and outmoded rules that “unnecessarily burden business, stifle investment and innovation, or confuse consumers and licenses.” He said 49 regulations have already been cut and 25 sets of unnecessary data collections are also set for elimination.

“We are . . . pleased by our commitment in the letter to abide by President Obama’s executive order . . . even though it does not bind independent agencies such as the FCC,” Upton and Walden wrote.

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