26 Feb 2008 Backdoor Imposition of Fairness Doctrine Opposed by Black Broadcasters Who Charge that New “Local Programming” Regulations Under FCC Consideration Could Lead to Broadcast Restrictions
Washington, D.C. – Concerned that proposed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations regarding “local programming content and diversity” could lead to a new “Fairness Doctrine,” black broadcasting veterans affiliated with Project 21 have submitted comments to the FCC opposing new restrictions on currently-accepted political and social content.
“We’ve seen an explosion in broadcast content since the FCC set aside the political restrictions of the Fairness Doctrine over 20 years ago,” said Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli. “To bring about new restrictions now would hurt businesses, political discourse and the diversity these proposed regulations purport to want to foster. All it will do is hurt free expression and free speech.”
The FCC released a report in late January on the topic of “broadcast localism” that ostensibly seeks “to ensure that broadcasters are appropriately addressing the needs of their local communities.” Some of the report’s proposals include “increase[ing] local content and diversity in programming,” “establish[ment of] permanent advisory boards… to consult periodically on community needs and issues” and new licensing guidelines to “ensure that all broadcasters provide some locally-oriented programming.”
Project 21 members and other critics of new regulation of accepted broadcast content contend this would set the stage for a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. This defunct FCC rule, requiring broadcasters to present contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues, was abolished in 1987. Between the 1980s and today, talk radio grew from 75 stations nationwide to around 1,800. It is feared that a return of content restrictions would return broadcasting to what former NBC “Meet the Press” host Bill Monroe called “timid, don’t-rock-the-boat coverage.”
It is also noted that technological innovations such as the Internet – with services such as blogs, YouTube and other web sites – and 24-hour broadcast news outlets now offers an environment in which access to all views is readily available.
“Media is a business driven by success and profit. While this FCC report proposes regulations with a veneer of promoting balance and fairness, a closer examination shows they will likely blunt today’s most successful models of discourse,” said Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie, a former talk radio host. “Any government interference in content that draws views or listeners and does not violate accepted standards of decency should be viewed hyper-critically.”
Project 21 members submitting comments against the FCC’s Report on Broadcast Localism and the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (MB Docket No. 04-233) include Chairman Mychal Massie, Fellow Deneen Borelli, and National Advisory Council members Kevin Martin, Bob Parks, the Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson and Elder Doctor Levon Yuille. All have been involved in radio and television broadcasting.
The comments submitted by Project 21 members can be downloaded at http://www.nationalcenter.org/FCC-Broadcast-Comments-0208.pdf.
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. The Center for Equal Opportunity is the nation’s only conservative think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.