Saturday, February 7, 2009

Christians Twist Fairness Doctrine into Censorship

Look out, the Christian right is at it again, twisting "freedom of speech" to mean their speech only! Somehow, the Fairness Doctrine is being twisted into a sinister censorship plot against Christians. It's so ludicrous it would be funny, except that these people are serious.

The Fairness Doctrine, which started in 1949, requires broadcasters to present issues of public importance, and to present a variety of views. They can't just broadcast sports, or sitcoms, or Christian sermons, all day long. And they can't present just one side of public issues; they have to give time to opposing and divergent views. It was the price you paid for getting a monopoly to use a radio frequency: It is a public resource, so you have to serve the public's needs. Democracy would be threatened if every TV and radio station in the country was owned by a few big businesses that completely controlled what was broadcast.

The Fairness Doctrine was rescinded in 1989 by Republicans under President Regan, but now there's talk of reinstating it – and the Christians are howling. The idea of sharing their monopoly, and presenting all sides of issues of importance to this Republic, has been twisted into "censorship." That's right, if they have to present their point of view alongside opposing points of view, it's censorship.

How embarrassing for them. If these Christians, who I hope don't represent mainstream Christian views, are so afraid of a real debate, what does that say about their faith? Not much.


  1. If liberals want to broadcast, whats stopping them? Could it be that compared to the conservatives who draw large crowds there just aren't enough liberals in the listening audience who tune in therefore making broadcasting an unprofitable business for most liberals. By forcing a conservative station who pays for their own airtime to include the alternative view, the UN-Fairness doctrine is censorship because the results are neither side is put on the air thereby muting conservatives. Conservatives are clamoring because this has already happened once and they remember where they came from.

  2. Mashley, you haven't read the history of the why the Fairness Doctrine was passed in the first place. Almost all large radio and TV stations with significant audience are owned by major corporations or very conservative churches. These groups are often hostile to even centrist politics. The Fairness Doctrine was created to balance an existing, very real, problem.

    But even if the opposite were true, that broadcast was dominated by liberals, I'd still assert that the Fairness Doctrine is good for democracy.

    For example, the Courts ruled long ago that shopping centers can't ban free speech, even though they are private property. The public's interest in democracy and free speech outweighs private property rights.

    And you didn't address my question: What are Christians afraid of? The Fairness Doctrine doesn't require ALL points of view, only a variety, and it requires TV and radio stations to spend a certain amount of time on issues of public interest. It's very broad. What's so scary about that? How is that censorship?


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