A Little Fairness Doctrine History

Eugene Volokh (via Instapundit) posts an excerpt about the effectiveness of the Fairness Doctrine from Fred Friendly’s book The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the First Amendment:

Bill Ruder, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Kennedy years and an acknowledged leader in public relations, says frankly, “Our massive strategy [in the early 1960s] was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.” …

[Arthur Larson, chair of NCCR, one of the groups used for this purpose], who had long been a target of the radical right, recalls his role in the NCCR with embarrassment. “The whole thing was not my idea,” he says, “but let’s face it, we decided to use the Fairness Doctrine to harass the extreme right. In the light of Watergate, it was wrong. We felt the ends justified the means. They never do.” …


In a report to the Democratic National Committee, Phillips wrote: “Even more important than the free radio time was the effectiveness of this operation in inhibiting the political activity of these right-wing broadcasts …” In a confidential report to Phillips and the DNC, Firestone stressed the nature of the campaign that “may have inhibited the stations in their broadcast of more radical and politically partisan programs.” … “… Were our efforts to be continued on a year-round basis, we would find that many of these stations would consider the broadcasts of these programs bothersome and burdensome (especially if they are ultimately required to give us free time) and would start dropping the programs from their broadcast schedule.”

Note how the Fairness Doctrine appeared to affect only the right wing broadcasts, not the left wing ones. So when the Democrats insist that the Fairness Doctrine should be brought back in order to restore “balance” to talk radio, they’re flat-out lying. They want it for the purpose of shutting up all dissenting opinion presented by conservative voices on talk radio, plain and simple.

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