Fairness 2.0: Media Content Regulation in the 21st Century

Robert Corn-Revere

Davis Wright Tremaine

November 10, 2009

Cato Policy Analysis Series, No. 651

Civil libertarians feared that a change of administrations would herald a revived Fairness Doctrine, a policy that previously permitted the government to oversee broadcast news coverage for "balanced views." A return to the Fairness Doctrine, however, now seems unlikely. It is very likely, however, that politicians from both the left and the right will try to extend government control over the media beyond current policies. New rules adopted or proposed by the Federal Communications Commission suggest that the agency may be poised to enforce the most intensive government oversight of broadcast programming in decades - perhaps even in the history of the agency. The FCC voted last year to require each broadcast licensee to file quarterly "enhanced disclosure" reports - highly detailed information regarding its programming and editorial choices. This information will be used by organized groups to file complaints to pressure broadcasters to air programming that the complainants prefer. The FCC is also formulating programming guidelines based on the enhanced disclosure reports purporting to ensure that broadcasters meet local needs. This "broadcast localism" effort may also require broadcasters to appoint local boards to oversee their performance and their editorial decisions. As the FCC seeks to expand regulation of broadcast media, the traditional justification for its authority - spectrum scarcity - has lost credibility, and the agency's new efforts are likely to run afoul of the First Amendment.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 20

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: January 30, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Corn-Revere, Robert, Fairness 2.0: Media Content Regulation in the 21st Century (November 10, 2009). Cato Policy Analysis Series, No. 651. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1543939 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1543939

Contact Information

Robert Corn-Revere (Contact Author)
Davis Wright Tremaine ( email )
Suite 2300
1300 SW Fifth Ave.
Portland, OR 97201
United States
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 354
Downloads: 46