Organization Created to Fight Non-Existent Policy

The conservative Media Research Center has created the “Free Speech Alliance”–an organization dedicated to fighting the revival of the Fairness Doctrine.

The Media Research Center today officially announced the Free Speech Alliance, a gathering of a multitude of organizations and hundreds of thousands of individual citizens dedicated to ensuring that the Censorship Doctrine, mis-named the “Fairness” Doctrine, is never again reinstated.

This move appears to have genuinely puzzled virtually every left-wing blog I read, due largely to the fact that there doesn’t appear to be anybody in the Democratic Party who is at all interested in reviving this doctrine at all.

To figure out who was causing such agitation, I went searching for the proponents of the fairness doctrine. I looked at Obama’s position–and it turns out that he doesn’t want the policy reinstated. Then I called the array of Democratic congressmen who had been tagged by conservatives as doctrine proponents. But they all denied any intention to push for its reinstatement.

Personally, given the staggering losses that the Republican Party saw in 2006 and 2008, I think the reason for creating this organization is obvious. It’s been created for the same reason why Division I basketball teams play Division II teams early in the season: it’s an easy win. And that easy win lets the D-I teams puff up their Win-Loss records so they look better when they seek alumni fundraising. (“Support us! We’re already 5-0!”)

Given the current political climate, conservative wins in the next two years are going to be few and far between. So conservative lobbying organizations are going to need a lot of funds to get anything accomplished. But it’s hard to raise money when it looks like you’re losing all the time. The solution? Raise money by fighting a policy that nobody supports! The continued lack of a Fairness Doctrine is the MRC’s ticket to “proving” that their being effective with their donations. All they have to do is harp in their fundraising letters that they’re being “successful” in fighting the Fairness Doctrine, and voila! Instant comparative advantage!

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. markm says:

    there doesn’t appear to be anybody in the Democratic Party who is at all interested in reviving this doctrine at all.

    I do believe that Nancy Pelosi has said, on the record, that she is in support or reviving the Fairness Doctrine. Also, I don’t know where Obama stands on the issue but there were plenty of Dems wanting media reform / regulation as of last summer.

  2. FormerHostage says:

    Last month Chuck Schumer was talking about the fairness doctrine and justified it by comparing the censoring of conservative talk with the censoring of pornography on public airwaves.
    Another quote from the linked article:

    In 2007, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a close ally of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told The Hill, “It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”

  3. FormerHostage says:

    One more point, the Fairness Doctrine would not be instituted by legislative action, the head of the FCC could just change the rules and if anyone had a problem with that, they’d have to go through the court system to fight it.

  4. FormerHostage says:

    Here’s another link addressing the idea that the Fairness Doctrine is a ‘manufactured controversy’

    This one reports on statements by Dick Durbin and Nancy Pelosi on reviving the doctrine.

  5. FormerHostage says:

    One more article on the stealth fairness doctrine, i.e. changes to licensing methods and other “media reforms” that Obama and company have talked about instituting.

  6. Bithead says:
  7. Rick DeMent says:

    Well if the media is “liberal” the fairness doctrine is just what conservatives would want isn’t it?

  8. Bithead says:

    No, since the liberals get to decide, with the power of government, what is ‘fair’, as they did last time.

  9. FormerHostage says:

    Well if the media is “liberal” the fairness doctrine is just what conservatives would want isn’t it?

    The plan isn’t really to institute fairness by ensuring that both sides are heard. The plan is to place such a burden on stations (to ensure ‘fairness”) that it is easier for them to just dump the talk-radio format altogether. The doctrine also only pertains to radio, not network television or PBS. Who, by their own admission, are primarily liberal inclined. Their idea of balance is to find someone who once said something nice about Reagan, call them a conservative, and put them on the panel with three former DNC officials.

    There’s also been talk to expand it to include the internet and “right-wing” blogs.

  10. davod says:

    The recent merger of Satellite radio companies was held up for some time because Dems were pushing to have elements of the fairness doctrine incorporated into the new corporation.

  11. Joe B. says:

    Worked in radio as a young man. The “fairness doctrine” was in effect then. It caused no grief or problems, for it was understood that the airways belong to the public as a whole, and, because of that, if a station gave an hour to one side of an issue, it gave an hour to the other side of an issue. Conservatives have taken advantage of — and largely promoted — the “fairness doctrine’s” demise. If yours is the only message getting out, you sure as hell don’t want the other side’s getting out, even if as a matter of fairness (there’s that word!) in the use of the whole public’s airwaves, both sides should have the opportunity to be heard. Actually, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed with that point of view —

    “A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others …. It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount.” — U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969.

  12. deb says:


    At the end of WWII a great generation built the infrastructure that allow each of us to turn on a faucet, drive a car, turn on the lights, and pick up a phone. This was done mainly with union labor. The middle class became huge and the country became rich. The American dream was possible for most anyone.

    We, as a nation, are currently overturning the laws that enabled our country to become the great nation that it is. The current laws are favoring corporations not workers.

    Capitalism is the best method for creating a robust economy, but unregulated capitalism leads to increased poverty, diminished middle class, and a few exceptionally wealthy people.

    How is this happening? Our media.

    The current legislators couldn’t get away with what they are doing if the “FAIRNESS ACT” were still in place.

    The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials.

    President Reagan rescinded the FAIRNESS ACT in 1987.

    Mark Crispin Miller, professor of Film and Media Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, has written about the increasing concentration of ownership of media companies in the United States. Miller has created charts that trace the holdings of four major conglomerates: Time Warner (CNN), Disney/Cap Cities (ABC), General Electric (NBC), and Westinghouse (CBS). These corporations also own radio stations, newspapers, magazines, cable TV, and motion pictures. The (non-media) holdings of these conglomerates create “alarming conflicts of interests” says Miller.

    Rep. Luther Johnson (D.-Texas), in the debate that preceded the Radio Act (predecessor to the Fairness Act) of 1927 said: “American thought and American politics will be largely at the mercy of those who operate these stations, for publicity is the most powerful weapon that can be wielded in a republic. And when such a weapon is placed in the hands of one person, or a single selfish group is permitted to either tacitly or otherwise acquire ownership or dominate these broadcasting stations throughout the country, then woe be to those who dare to differ with them. It will be impossible to compete with them in reaching the ears of the American people.”

    We are a TV watching culture. TV exists for only one reason – to sell us something. It used to sell us only goods to purchase. It is now, also, selling an agenda. Restore the Fairness Doctrine to restore freedom of speech in our media.

  13. JSSmith says:

    What most people are failing to see as obvious was that during the time period of the ‘fairness doctrine’, many dissenting and politically-sensitive subjects were deliberately under-reported or altogether un-reported. What most people fail to realize is that regardless of what you call whatever policy you support is passed/voided, these are political acts designed to mask the real problem of media censorship that will continue unabated! So long as you have well-moneyed corporations controlling, through ownership, the media outlets, regardless of form, you will NEVER have a truly fair accounting of what the ‘media’ choose to give air time to. The only way to get wider coverage of topics and the issues is to have more independent “low-power” stations and “alternative” newspapers! The problem can only be addressed and repaired with grassroots efforts! If the airwaves belong to the public then the public should be the solution to media censorship!

    As for entertaining any hope from the FCC, forget it! The FCC has too many big-business-friendly stooges in its stables to even consider them capable of rendering a judgment call in favor of the public regardless of what “nice sounding” policies they dream up! Fairness doctrine was DOA then and probably anytime in the future because the REAL issues will never be thoroughly addressed in anyway by the ‘mainstream’ media!