Saturday, February 14, 2009

CRS Report on Fairness Doctrine

Any attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine likely would be met with a constitutional challenge. Those opposing the doctrine would argue that it violates their First Amendment rights. In 1969, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine, but applied a lower standard of scrutiny to the First Amendment rights of broadcasters than it applies to other media. Since that decision, the Supreme Court’s reasoning for applying a lower constitutional standard to broadcasters’ speech has been questioned. Furthermore, when repealing the doctrine, the FCC found that, as the law stood in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine violated the First Amendment even when applying the lower standard of scrutiny to the doctrine. No reviewing court has examined the validity of the agency’s findings on the constitutional issue. Therefore, whether a newly instituted Fairness Doctrine would survive constitutional scrutiny remains an open question.