Wednesday, August 13, 2008

the Freedom Doctrine

the FCC's Commissioner McDowell, already having established himself as the right-wing equivalent of Resident FCC Firebrand Commissioner Copps, has raised the bar a step higher. in his latest escapade, he has suggested that an Obama presidency would lead to a return and expansion of the Fairness Doctrine, and that net neutrality is the first step down this road. let's review, shall we?

the Fairness Doctrine required over-the-air television broadcasters to dedicate a portion of their air time to the presentation of multiple points of view on controversial topics. though a lot of concerns were raised about the constitutionality of such a regulation, the Supreme Court upheld it in Red Lion Broadcasting Co v. FCC, 395 U.S. 367 (1969). but it was abandoned by the FCC anyway, and as McDowell admits, it hasn't been suggested (or, i'm sure, even considered) at the FCC, and no one in their right mind would consider extending it to the blogosphere or any other portion of the internet.

more importantly, though, the Fairness Doctrine has nothing to do with net neutrality. there's a difference between regulation and control, at least when the objective of the regulation is to force the control to be in the hands of the people, not the government or any corporations. with the Fairness Doctrine, the FCC decided to force broadcasters to transmit certain types of content whether their listeners wanted to hear it or not, all in the name of fairness; with net neutrality, the FCC is forcing the cable companies (the equivalent of the broadcasters) to allow users of their services to communicate freely, without any restrictions. it's sort of the antithesis of the Fairness Doctrine - in fact, i suggest we call it the 'Freedom Doctrine'. Commissioner Copps, are you listening?


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