Congressmen Calling for Review of Fairness Doctrine

In the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Tucson, Ariz., some government officials have called for a revival of the Fairness Doctrine—or something like it.

Ruled unconstitutional in 1987, the Federal Communications Commission stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to give equal time to opposing views.

One of those calling for some sort of legislation restricting free speech is Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking Democrat in the House and father of Mignon Clyburn, a member of the FCC. The congressman told The Columbia, S.C. Post and Courier that he thinks standards should be put in place to guarantee balanced media coverage. “Free speech is as free speech does,” Clyburn told the paper. “You cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater and call it free speech, and some of what I hear, and is being called free speech, is worse than that.”

Another Democrat, Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.), has gone on the cable news shows vowing to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to use images or language that threaten public officials, like Sarah Palin’s use of targets on a map. The legislation would give federal lawmakers and officials the same protections as the president.

Stopping short of advocating legislation, the National Hispanic Media Coalition is urging the FCC to open a docket to examine the extent and effects of hate speech in media. The organization also requested that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration update its 1993 report, “The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes.”