Net neutrality is on its way to being gutted. Time Warner has rammed a bulk mail rate increase that severely undercuts small periodicals. Small presses are dying and quirky imprints like Thunder’s Mouth are being gutted.
And remember the Fairness Doctrine shot down by Reagan? Well, it seems that the Republicans want to bring back the debate through the dubiously named Broadcaster Freedom Act (PDF).
It seems that letting the issue die twenty years ago wasn’t enough. One of Senator Sam Rayburn’s great legislative accomplishments — The Communications Act of 1934 — is being completely destroyed — even with the enthusiastic help of many Democrats. Here is the clause in question:
Notwithstanding section 303 or any other provision of this Act or any other Act authorizing the Commission to prescribe rules, regulations, policies, doctrines, standards, or other requirements, the Commission shall not have the authority to prescribe any rule, regulation, policy, doctrine, standard, or other requirement that has the purpose or effect of reinstating or repromulgating (in whole or in part) the requirement that broadcasters present opposing viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance, commonly referred to as the ‘Fairness Doctrine’, as repealed in General Fairness Doctrine Obligations of Broadcast Licensees, 50 Fed.Reg. 35418 (1985).
The Oreganian has a solid overview of the Fairness Doctrine, which revisits the failed 2005 efforts to re-adopt the Fairness Doctrine through the Media Ownership Reform Act and offers this telling quote from Representative Greg Walden:
Among the five stations Walden owns is KACI, which airs conservative talk shows such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Reagan. While the stations offer some local, objective news reporting, they don’t balance the conservative talkers with liberal shows.
Walden acknowledges the rightward slant of talk radio but attributes it to consumer demand.
“Is it more conservative than liberal? Yeah,” Walden said. “Are there a lot more country-western stations than polka stations? Yeah. Listeners make these determinations. The marketplace decides.”