OBJECTIONS TO FAIRNESS DOCTRINE ARE NOT VALID
by Peter Moss
The U.S. media make a tremendous amount of income from paid political
ads. The loss of income from a well-enforced fairness doctrine law would
be the likely reason given by the media for objecting to it, and it is
a valid objection but not the main one. Besides, the law I am proposing
would allow the media to charge the first ad applicant a multiple of the
rate and thus prepay for the subesquent non-paying candidates.
The medias' main objection, never admitted, is that the media would lose
control of manipulating the public's mind to favor, or at least tacitly
tolerate, the self-interested and wealthy media owners' control of U.S.
political discourse, a goal never intended by the framers of the Constitution
and the First Amendment.
The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting
the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the
people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress
of grievances." This applies only to the U.S. Congress, not to the
fifty state legislatures. And the Tenth Amendment specifies that "The
powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited
by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the
people." Thus what Congress cannot do is reserved for the State legislatures
But the more important argument is that the Fairness Doctrine enlarges
political discourse and does not "abridge" it, which was the
obvious concern of the Founding Fathers in view of the royal censors working
for King George III. The media barons spin, omit, or at least delay news
not to their liking. News of non-mainstream candidates seem especially
objectionable to the media barons, for such candidates, if elected, threaten
the barons' power to spin, omit, or delay news they dislike. Ever since
the Bush regime has changed its blood-for-Iraqi-oil warmongering to his
search for weapons of mass distraction, the mainstream media has not uttered
"oil" except on C-SPAN, in reporting on the worldwide antiwar
Another flawed objection concerns the FCC's position on the Fairness Doctrine.
The FCC was entrusted with enforcing the Fairness Doctrine but apparently
under pressure from lobbies, "the FCC concluded that the Fairness
Doctrine was no longer in the public interest because it chills the expression
of diverse points of view." as quoted by Mark Vogelzang, VPR, 10-16-02.
This reminds me of the shivering insomniac who added another 5 blankets
on top of the original five to further chill himself! And VPR goes on
to say that "the Fairness Doctrine was declared unconstitutional
more than a decade ago." This is apparently based on denial of certiorari
in Syracuse Peace Council, 493 U.S. 1019 (1990), and if so, it is a clear
misinterpretation of the meaning of "Certiorari denied." In
a guide to Supreme Court petitioners, the Clerk states that "The
denial of a writ of certiorari signifies only that the Court has chosen
not to accept the case for review [as it does with 99% of all petitions]
and does not express the court's view of the merits of the case."
And another thing: "unconstitutional" is a legislative act held
by the Supreme Court to be contrary to the Constitution. It is not a denial
of certiorari which does not express the Court's view of the merits of
the case. Still, one could not enforce the Fairness Doctrine in a court
of law because of the FCC's position.
Earlier, the other principal Vermont broadcaster declared that "...
news programs were exempt from the Doctrine, which died in 1987."
Marselis Parsons, WCAX, 6-28-02. In a handwritten note he says "...
the Fairness Doctrine was basically repealed in 1987." Marselis Parsons,
Currently the mainstream candidates collect bribes (a/k/a support, donations,
contributions, hard & soft money, campaign financing, etc.) The money
is for buying name recognition ads and leads to "victory," like
in 2002 when Republicans scored 18%, Democrats 17%, and 65% stayed away
from the polls. Former New York Congressman Steve Solarz defended the
practice saying "You can't buy a Congressman for $5,000, but you
can buy his vote. It's done every day." Will Rogers, the humorous
journalist wrote in the 1930s that "We have the best government money
can buy" and people smiled as if it was a joke, not realizing that
Will wasn't kidding and the joke is on the American voter. Neither Rogers
nor anybody since then has raised the criminality of bribery under 18
U.S.C. §201 but I do so now.
According to Hightower, only about 136,000 Americans put up $1,000 or
more [p.69] and only half of them, about 65,000, put up "big bucks."
[p.44]. Of course it's not just for name recognition ads; there are 35,000
professional political consultants including pollsters, ad writers and
space buyers, etc. Former Senator William E. Borah of Idaho said: "Money
has come to be the moving power in American politics ... Some years ago,
politicians got into the habit of seeking contributions from men of great
wealth ... it was inevitable, if large sums were to be given, that large
sums would have to be returned in some way. Hence, money and politicians
joined forces, and money has its say in shaping legislation and in administering
the laws of the country ... It is a fearful national evil and will in
the end, if not controlled, destroy the government of the people and substitute
therefor, a government of the few -- the few who have sufficient money
to buy the government." [p.71] [citations are from "If the Gods
Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates" by Jim
Hightower, © 2000]. Senator Borah's forecast was made in 1926. Today
the Vermont Legislature has an opportunity to take a first step against
bribocracy: enact a Vermont Fairness Doctrine.