The National Religious Broadcasters has again come out squarely against reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine in a resolution passed at its annual convention. It adopted similar resolutions in 2002 and 2003.
That is the rule, dropped by the FCC in 1987, that required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues. It's excision fueled the rise of conservative talk radio.
Media consolidation critics have increasingly pushed for its return to boost what they say is a lack of diverse media voices.
Saying that there is currently "more than adequate presentation of all responsible views," and that the doctrine has had a "chilling and stifling effect on broadcasters everywhere," NRB, representing 1,600 member organizations, resolved to "go on record as strongly opposing any attempt to reinstate or make the Fairness doctrine the law of the land."
It also vowed to lobby hard against it.One of the concerns of some religious broadcasters about speech restrictions,either affirmative, like the doctrine, or restrictive, like regulations on hate speech or even indecency, is that they cut both ways.
The Fairness Doctrine, for instance, would require a broadcaster preaching about the evils of temptation to make airtime available to those preaching the virtues of sin. Indecency could depend on what kind of speech the reigning political majority found offensive.
The NRB position puts the group at odds with at least one religious congregation active in media issues.
The United Church of Christ's Office of Communications is a longtime and strong supporter of the doctrine. "There may be some robust discussion in some parts of the mediauniverse" says Executive Director Gloria Tristani, "but on too much of the media there is often a lack of diversity of debate."