And Now a Word Against Our Sponsor: Extending the FCC's Fairness Doctrine to Advertising
Ira Mark Ellman
Arizona State University College of Law; Arizona State University (ASU) - Department of Psychology; Center for the Study of Law and Society, Berkeley Law, University of California, Berkeley
California Law Review, Vol. 60, p. 1416, 1972
This article considers the extension of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) fairness doctrine to commercial advertising. Under the fairness doctrine, although an advertiser may express a view on a public issue in the course of a sales pitch, the FCC has rarely considered the content of commercial messages in determining whether licensees were meeting their obligation to present a balanced coverage of conflicting views. A number of recent complaints and court decisions have forced the FCC to reconsider its position on commercial messages, however. This article focuses on the issues that should be involved in this reconsideration. It briefly reviews the principles underlying the fairness doctrine and describes the FCC's application of these principles to commercials. Then it suggests how the FCC should deal with three possible categories of commercial announcements, and discusses the complainant's difficulties in obtaining a quantity or quality of reply time comparable to that of the original announcements, a fairness problem that is especially difficult to resolve when the doctrine is applied to commercials. Finally, it examines the financial impact an extension of the fairness doctrine to commercial announcements may have upon licensees. It concludes that limiting the doctrine to non-commercial content is arbitrary and unjustified under the statutory public interest standard, is unnecessary to protect the FCC from undue administrative burdens, and cannot be supported as necessary to maintain the financial base of radio and television.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC), The Fairness Doctrine, Constitutional Law
Date posted: October 8, 2009
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