The Fairness Doctrine stemmed from rules mandating that stations give equal time for opposing viewpoints that had been in place since the late 1940s. These rules crystallized in the 1960s into the Fairness Doctrine, which required stations to notify political candidates if they had been criticized and give them time to respond.
“The fact of the matter is at the end of the day, the Fairness Doctrine is not coming back,” Westmoreland press secretary Brian Robinson said. “There’s little support for it.”
Robinson cited the 309-115 vote in favor of the amendment forbidding the use of the Fairness Doctrine as proof that both Republicans and Democrats oppose the Fairness Doctrine’s return.
According to the online Museum of Broadcast Communications, the equal-time requirements proved so burdensome that many broadcasters tried to avoid controversial issues altogether. By the 1980s, the argument in favor of broadcast regulation due to scarcity of media outlets had been eroded by the proliferation of cable TV channels and the Reagan administration, generally pro-deregulation, abolished the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.
Free of the requirements of providing equal time for both parties, overtly partisan radio programs were free to proliferate across the airwaves.
The dominance of talk radio by conservatives has upset many on the left. In 2005, U.S. Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, D-N.Y., co-sponsored the Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA), which, in addition to limiting the number of radio stations owned by any one company, would have reintroduced the Fairness Doctrine.
Although MORA died in committee, interest in the Fairness Doctrine revived in the aftermath of the Democratic victories of 2006.
Westmoreland does not think that the Fairness Doctrine is necessary.
“Congressman Westmoreland is opposed to the so-called ‘Fairness Doctrine,’” Robinson said. “He has co-sponsored legislation that prevents the Federal Communications Commission, now or in the future, from re-implementing the Fairness Doctrine.”
Although interest in the Fairness Doctrine ebbed, the idea was pulled back into prominence in the aftermath of the defeat of the immigration reform bill due to the influence of talk-radio hosts. According to The Associated Press, U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., complained about the influence of talk radio, and suggested something be done about it.
“If there’s any desire to change the current rules, it’s from liberals,” Robinson said. He said liberals have no reason to believe they’re being drowned out -- although conservatives dominate talk radio, liberals dominate the blogs and Internet.
“The fact of the matter is there’s no societal need for more liberal voices on talk radio,” Robinson said.