FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
has told Congress he supports striking the so-called 'fairness doctrine' and a
couple of its corollaries from the Code of Federal Regulations.
That came in a letter responding
to a request from Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R- Ore.), the chairs of
the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee, that
the FCC officially deep-six the doctrine, pointing to President Obama's
directive earlier this year to federal agencies to review outdated regs still
on the books.
"I fully support deleting the
Fairness Doctrine and related provisions form the Code of Federal
Regulations," he wrote in a letter dated June 6 (a copy of which was
obtained by B&C), " so that
there can be no mistake that what has been a dead letter is truly dead."
He said that his staff was currently reviewing its regs, which has focused to
date on rules still actively governing licensees, but that he expected they
would recommend the deletion of the fairness doctrine and related corollaries,
which provided for free response time for personal attacks and equal time for
other candidates if a station endorsed a candidate in an editorial. The
corollaries were repealed by the FCC in 2000.
"I look forward to
effectuating this change when acting on the staff's recommendations and
anticipate that the process can be completed in the near future," he
wrote. He reiterated that he felt the doctrine had the potential to chill
speech and should have been abandoned when it was more than two decades ago.
The issue came up after Republican
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell pointed out in a speech that, although the FCC
ruled back in 1987 that the doctrine was unconstitutional and unenforceable,
the doctrine remained in the Code of Federal Regulations, which meant
essentially it was teed up if a future commission decided to enforce it.
McDowell suggested that it was
high time to take it off the books, and the Republican legislators agree.
The doctrine required TV stations
to air controversial issues of public importance and seek out opposing
viewpoints. Also still on the books are corollaries to the doctrine providing
for free response time for personal attacks and providing equal time for other
candidates if a station endorsed a candidate in an editorial. The corollaries
were repealed by the FCC in 2000.