I recently attended a discussion entitled The First Amendment in the Time of Trump, sponsored by the American Bar Association. One idea seemed to be on everyone’s mind: the fact that “increasingly, we Americans occupy alternate universes,” as CBS Sunday MorningSenior Contributor Ted Koppel puts it. What caused this divide?”Rush Limbaugh had a lot to do with creating those two separate worlds. But he couldn’t have done it until 1987, when the Federal Communications Commission did away with the so-called Fairness Doctrine,” said Koppel.
The Fairness Doctrine had existed for almost 40 years when it was abolished. It was designed to prevent the “media bias” that so many Americans find objectionable today. When the Doctrine was in place, if a station aired “fake news,” untruths, or biased opinion it could be fined or even have its license revoked. But President Reagan — who opposed the doctrine — thought it worked against “the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment” and it was abolished during his administration.
“[The Fairness Doctrine] required that holders of broadcast licenses for television and radio stations regularly provide multiple, opposing perspectives about important public issues,” explained Elizabeth Jensen, NPR’s Ombudsman/Public Editor, in a speech last month. “With the rolling back of the doctrine, talk radio – most of it from the right — blossomed.”
I’d love to hear from you. Should we bring back the Fairness Doctrine? Or something like it? What do you think?
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