Under GOP pressure, the Federal Communications Commission has agreed to strike from its books an outdated yet still controversial regulation of political speech on the airwaves known as the Fairness Doctrine.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a letter to a House Republican leader this week that the agency’s effort to identify and eliminate “antiquated and outmoded rules that unnecessarily burden business, stifle investment and innovation, or confuse consumers and licensees” will include a recommendation to delete the Fairness Doctrine.
“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 to Rep. Fred. Upton, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “I look forward to effectuating this change when acting on the staff’s recommendations and anticipate that the process can be completed in the near future.”
The Fairness Doctrine has been on the books since 1949. The regulation sought to ensure that discussion over the airwaves of controversial issues did not exclude any particular point of view by threatening to strip the licenses of broadcasters who provide diverse opinions. At the time, only 2,881 radio stations existed, compared with roughly 14,000 today.
The regulation was abolished in the 1980s, but the doctrine is still technically on the books. Upton and Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the subcommittee on communications, applauded the news that it would be eliminated.