Chop off these rules

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When the FCC threw out the so-called fairness doctrine in 1987, finding it an unconstitutional abridgement of broadcasters' First Amendment rights, this page was confident that the agency would quickly prune away the personal-attack and political-editorializing corollaries-the branches of a diseased tree that had just been felled.

It seemed like a no-brainer. In a1983 proposal to eliminate the rules, the FCC concluded that the rules, which force broadcasters to seek out the targets of political attacks or editorials and offer them airtime, "afford a right of access for specific individuals to a broadcaster's facilities, thereby removing from licensees almost all editorial discretion."

Fourteen years after the doctrine fell and 17 years after that first proceeding, the commission has changed hands several times, the Berlin Wall is now a paperweight, but the political-editorializing and personal-attack rules remain on the books.

The explanation du jour is that the issue is at a political stalemate, with the Republicans and Democrats divided and Chairman Kennard out of play because, as a lawyer at NAB, he was involved in making a case against the rules.

Last week, the NAB and RTNDA, tired of beating their heads against a wall, petitioned a court to get the FCC to either throw out the rules or explain why they were being retained. We support that petition and urge the court to force the commission's hand.