The censorship doctrine


The choice of Joe Lieberman for VP was not the only unpleasant surprise that fans of the First Amendment got last week. Another, potentially serious one, could be found in the draft of the Democratic party, which says, without explanation or elaboration: "Democrats call for the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine by the Federal Communications Commission."

The discredited doctrine, which forced broadcasters to cover all sides of controversial issues or face the wrath of government, was rightly invalidated by the FCC in 1987 as unconstitutional. Democrats' pledge to exhume it is another example of their willingness to micromanage the media to further social aims. We only hope cooler heads prevail and that that language is excised by the time the balloons starts falling in Los Angeles. If so, it would be in contrast to the hotheads at the Republican National Committee who were playing fairness police last week. Predicated on what it perceives as a liberal bias, the RNC sent letters warning the major broadcast networks not to give more airtime to the Democratic convention than the GOP convention got. The networks, appropriately, gave them the civil version of what could have been a two-word answer (we were thinking "bug off") to the out-of-line request for enforced fairness. Wasn't it Republicans who threw out the fairness doctrine? These days, you can't tell the censors without a scorecard.