A Half Century Without the Fairness Doctrine

August 4, 2012

Twenty-five years ago today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order effectively repealing the infamous broadcast “Fairness Doctrine.” The Doctrine required that broadcast licensees had to present reasonable opportunity for the airing of contesting points of view when covering issues of public importance to their community. For nearly 40 years, it was upheld in the name of protecting the ‘public interest.’

Lost in this more positive-right view of freedom of speech often espoused by proponents of the Doctrine was the harm it had on the more negative-right view of freedom of speech. But over time the negative-right view won out. It became viewed as a restriction on free speech, creating a “chilling effect” which led broadcasters to avoid covering any controversial public issues due to the requirement to ensure all sides of the issue were covered.

To commemorate the repeal, Reason.tv has posted the following interview with Thomas Hazlett, a professor of law and economics at George Mason University, discussing the history and various issues with the Doctrine:

In addition, I actually wrote my master’s thesis on the subject, relating it to the two conceptions of liberty: positive and negative, as postulated by Isaiah Berlin. In addition to the “chilling effect” argument, I also argued in the thesis that the positive-right conception exemplified in the Doctrine lends itself to an uncomfortable level of paternalism on the part of government regulators and a constitutional abridgement of negative-right speech. For those with probably too much time on their hands, all 184 pages can be read here.

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Con Air

November 28, 2010

A lighter look at the TSA pat downs from Reason.tv:

No longer the friendly skies?


Stretching the Commerce Clause

August 31, 2010

Here’s a great new video from Reason.tv on the extents to which Congress has stretched the scope of the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution over the years in order to justify its regulation of just about everything:


Reasons Not to Praise Financial ‘Reform’

July 17, 2010

In light of the Senate’s recent passage of financial ‘reform,’ here’s a video from Reason.tv noting 3 reasons new regulations won’t fix anything:

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Reasons Not to Regulate the Internet

June 21, 2010

Here’s a recent video from Reason.tv on reasons why the FCC should not get itself involved in regulation of the internet:

The point raised in the last part of the clip rasing the specter of the FCC’s inevitable regulation of internet content (not just traffic as it now wants to) should not be overlooked. Throughout its history of regulating the broadcast spectrum, it has been more than happy to regulate airwave content — even political content — all in the name of the nebulous “public interest.” There’s no reason to doubt it wouldn’t eventually like to do the same with the internet.

* Note: I’m currently writing my graduate thesis on the FCC and its regulation of political content over the airwaves.

* The preceding was originally posted on the Young Americans for Liberty blog.


‘Jurisdiction Over Everything’

May 20, 2010

Reason.tv has posted this audio of a legal aide to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps jokingly admitting that her boss would “love to have jurisdiction over everything”:

(More on the FCC’s dubious role in regulating communications in the name of the supposed “public interest”  here, here and here.)

* The preceding was also posted on the Young Americans for Liberty blog.


Reasoning Through the GM Ad

May 2, 2010

To add to a recent post I made putting GM’s ad touting the payback of its government loan into perspective, here is Reason.tv’s take on the subject: