Monday, October 20, 2008

"the First Amendment shouldn’t have an expiration date"

Barbara Comstock, who worked for the Justice Department early on in the Bush administration, and Lanny Davis, who served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton, join hands for this article in opposition to the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," which would put the federal government in the position of judging political speech to ensure that broadcast outlets are even-handed. The terrible idea prevailed in FCC regulations prior to being abolished by the Reagan administration. Due to conservative dominance of talk radio and liberal irritation at the existence of Fox News, some Democrats have suggested reviving this imposition on free speech. A few Republicans, full of the political class's notion that criticism of that class threatens the Republic, have expressed agreement.

As Ms. Comstock and Mr. Davis point out, there has historically been bipartisan opposition to the Fairness Doctrine -- Dan Rather and Rush Limbaugh, Ronald Reagan and Mario Cuomo, are all referenced in opposition. Furthermore, while it has never been a good idea, the need for the Fairness Doctrine could at one time be rationalized based on the scarcity of broadcast sources. With the advent of cable and the internet, that scarcity no longer exists. They quote from a LA Times editorial:

No matter what your point of view might be, you have free or inexpensive outlets available today to express it — maybe not a radio or TV station but certainly a website, a video blog, a podcast or an e-mail newsletter. At the same time, the public has unprecedented access to a diverse array of opinions. Just as the government shouldn't decide what you say on the channels you create, nor should it be able to dictate the range of opinions people hear over the air.

Indeed.

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