15 First Amend. L. Rev. 331 (2016-2017)
How the FCC Killed the Fairness Doctrine: A Critical Evaluation of the 1985 Fairness Report Thirty Years after Syracuse Peace Council

handle is hein.journals/falr15 and id is 353 raw text is: 




     HOW THE FCC KILLED THE FAIRNESS
  DOCTRINE: A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF
  THE   1985  FAIRNESS REPORT THIRTY YEARS
         AFTER S YI ACUSE PEA CE COUNCIL

                  Mark  R. Arbuckle,  Ph.D.*

                        INTRODUCTION

       The  year  2017  marks  the thirtieth anniversary of the
Federal Communications Commission's (FCC's) elimination
of the broadcast Fairness Doctrine in Syracuse Peace Council.' This
ruling, upheld by  the United  States Court of Appeals  for the
District of Columbia,2 eliminated fairness rules that had been in
place  since the  1940s. The   broader  principle of broadcast
fairness, including  fairness and   access  rules for  political
candidates,3 goes back to the earliest days of broadcasting in the
1920s.4 Since 1949  broadcasters had been  formally required to
air controversial  issues of  public importance   and  provide
reasonable opportunities for presentation of opposing views  as
part of their mandate to serve the public interest.'
       Unlike  the  fairness rules enacted specifically for the
benefit of political candidates, the Fairness Doctrine aimed to
benefit  the   non-candidate   general   public  by   requiring
broadcasters to present diverse viewpoints on important  public
issues. The FCC, in its 1949 Report on Editorializing,6 explained
that broadcasters were required to play a conscious and positive


* Mark R. Arbuckle, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at Pittsburg State University in
Pittsburg, Kansas.
1 2 FCC Rcd. 5043 (1987).
2 Syracuse Peace Council v. FCC, 867 F.2d 654 (D.C. Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 493
U.S. 1019 (1990).
3 Section 18 of the 1927 Radio Act and section 315 of the 1934 Communication Act
required broadcasters to provide fair access to political candidates. See Radio Act of
1927, Pub. L. No. 69-632, 44 Stat. 1162, repealed by Communications Act of 1934,
Pub. L. No. 73-416, 48 Stat. 1064 (codified as amended at 47 U.S.C.  151 (1996)).
4 Fairness for candidates was a topic of considerable debate leading up to passage of
the 1927 Radio Act. See LOUISE. M. BENJAMIN, FREEDOM OF THE AIR AND THE
PUBLIC INTEREST: FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS IN BROADCASTING TO 1935, 32-54
(2001); STEVEN J. SIMMONS, THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE AND THE MEDIA 16-27
(1978); David H. Ostroff, Equal Time: Origins ofSection 18 ofthe Radio Act of1927, 24 J.
OF BROAD. 367 (1980).
5 See Report on Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees, 13 F.C.C. 1246 (1949)
(hereinafter 1949 Report on Editorializing).
61jd.

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