Hazlett in WSJ: World Without Fairness Doctrine Promotes More Discussion, Not Less

"The world without the Fairness Doctrine features exponentially more discussion of public issues from contrasting perspectives, much of it from new media outlets that were never subjected to the Fairness Doctrine," says Professor Thomas Hazlett in a Wall Street Journal commentary written with former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Dennis Patrick.

With some members of Congress calling for a return to a "fairness" mandate, Hazlett and Patrick defend the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine, pointing out that the need for a Fairness Doctrine has lessened since its abolition in 1987 because of the widespread growth of information sources since that time.

The Return of the Speech Police, The Wall Street Journal Online, July 30, 2007. By Dennis Patrick and Thomas W. Hazlett.

"In the old days, the Fairness Doctrine was almost universally popular among the political class. Left-leaning champions of regulation sought rules to counter the slant of 'corporate' media. Simultaneously, conservatives sought to oppose the liberal establishment. Most troubling were those who privately conceded their true goal was retention of a federal 'club' with which to 'influence' reporters and their bosses. Potential Fairness Doctrine complaints made news editors timid champions of freedom of the press.

"Today, right-leaning politicians have recanted, as the explosion in talk radio has given their ideas a platform never before enjoyed. Brian Andersen's 2005 book 'South Park Conservatives' rejoices that free speech has proven far more hospitable to conservative views than GOP exponents of the Fairness Doctrine ever imagined.

"Many American liberals, seeing (or hearing) the same outcomes, support the reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine. These advocates of content regulation need to be reminded of the words of one great liberal, the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who wrote in Columbia Broadcasting v. Democratic Committee (1973): 'The prospect of putting Government in a position of control over publishers is to me an appalling one, even to the extent of the Fairness Doctrine. The struggle for liberty has been a struggle against Government.'"

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