Lessons in History: August 4, 1987 – US Federal Communications Rescinds Fairness Doctrine

The Federal Communications Commission rescinds the Fairness Doctrine which had required radio and television stations to present controversial issues “fairly”.

What was the FCC “Fairness Doctrine“?

The fairness doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was a policy that required the broadcast media to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the policy in 1987 and removed the rule that implemented the policy from the Federal Register in August 2011.

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. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.

 

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