The Fairness Doctrine Is Dead

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Long opposed by the talk-radio right as a First-Amendment violation, the policy officially meets its end

Rush Limbaugh - Micah Walters Reuters - banner.jpg

Looks like Rush Limbaugh can breathe a sigh of relief. The Federal Communications Commission has agreed to comply with a House GOP request to once and for all kill the fairness doctrine.

The doctrine requires broadcasters to air opposing points of view but the FCC ruled in 1987 that it would stop enforcing it. Republicans in recent years, however, have voiced concern that the FCC may try to revive the rule in some way and possibly use it to curtail conservative talk radio.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski last month to urge him to formally remove from the Code of Federal Regulations the fairness doctrine and rules allowing for those who are attacked by a broadcaster's editorial to respond on air.

Genachowski has repeatedly said in the past that he does not favor reviving the fairness doctrine. He wrote the lawmakers Monday to say he expects the FCC staff will recommend the deletion of the fairness doctrine and related provisions as part of his effort to comply with President Obama's call for agency's to eliminate unnecessary regulations.

"I fully support deleting the fairness doctrine and related provisions from the Code of Federal Regulations so that there can be no mistake that what has been a dead letter is truly dead," Genachowski wrote.

While praising Genachowski's pledge to finally kill the fairness doctrine, Upton and Walden aren't satisfied yet. They sent Genachowski a new letter Wednesday requesting -- by Friday -- additional information on when the FCC will act on its commitment.

"We are heartened by your continued opposition to the Fairness Doctrine because of its chilling effects on free speech and the free flow of ideas," Upton and Walden wrote. "When precisely will you eliminate the Fairness Doctrine and related regulations?"

Image credit: Micah Walter/Reuters

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Juliana Gruenwald is a special correspondent for National Journal Daily and a technology writer for National Journal's Tech Daily Dose

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