Despite its repeal in 1987, the fairness doctrine remains one of the most controversial issues in broadcast regulation today. Since the doctrine's demise, Congress has tried twice unsuccessfully to revive this content-specific regulation which required broadcasters to actively search for controversial issues of importance and present a balance of viewpoints in programming exploring those issues. This article suggests a new standard of reviewing fairness complaints at renewal time which creates a strong presumption in favor of the broadcaster. Part I of the article focuses on the development of the fairness doctrine throughout its short history. In particular, it traces the historical underpinnings of broadcast regulation examining the intent and purpose of the fairness provision. Part II analyzes the judicial and quasi-judicial enforcement of this regulation, particularly with respect to political broadcasting. Part III traces the demise of the Doctrine and the attempts to revive it. Part IV outlines the presumption in favor of the broadcaster at license renewal time and concludes that this alternative essentially frees broadcasters from defending their records, yet still provides a window of opportunity for groups validly claiming biased broadcasting.
Robert D. Richards,
Resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine: The Quandary of Enforcement Continues,
37 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol37/iss4/5