Some potential good news — Fox is reporting that President Obama has repeated his opposition to reinstatement of the appalling and Orwellian-named Fairness Doctrine:
"As the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated," White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
As Patrick mentioned earlier this week, some Congressional Democrats have been making noise about reviving the entirely illiberal doctrine, the application of which is considerably more complex in an age of cable and internet news.
However, don't count the Congressional Democrats out yet. There's no telling whether the White House response to this question is misleading. Congress could pass some array of rules that has fundamentally the same impact as the Fairness Doctrine and simply slap a new label on it, and President Obama could use that new label as the excuse to sign off on it. I'd be considerably more comfortable with a stronger statement from the White House, like this: "the President disagrees with, and will not support, any attempt to regulate broadcast content by telling media entities what political or social views they must air, whether or not under the guise of 'fairness' or 'even-handedness.'" I doubt we'll get anything that blunt, though.
The argument over media bias reveals strange incongruities on both sides of the political spectrum. Conservatives tend to oppose the Fairness Doctrine on the grounds that the market, not the government, should drive broadcast content. I agree with that proposition. Yet some conservatives constantly bemoan liberal bias in the media. Accepting for the sake of argument that there is such a bias (a proposition that I think is seriously oversimplified), isn't that bias a result of the same market forces that conservatives cherish? Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the Wall Street Journal illustrate that conservative media voices can succeed to the extent the market supports them — in other words, Americans can, and do, change the channel to one that suits their need for fairness and accuracy (if you like Fox News) or opinion porn (if you don't). Isn't conservative carping about liberal media bias therefore like my carping about reality TV — a thinly disguised expression of disgust for the taste and judgment of the populace forming the market?
Liberals are simply hoist from the other direction. Liberals like to claim that there is no liberal media bias, but an actual conservative or corporate bias (again, a highly oversimplified proposition, I think), and vigorously resist and ridicule conservative efforts to police the media for liberal excesses. Some liberals tell us that certain ideas are preferred in the media because the opposing ideas — conservative ideas — have failed, and that this is as it should be. Yet the same liberals are willing to let the government regulate talk radio on the pretense that there is some sort of market flaw preventing liberal thought from surviving there, and that it is somehow in the public interest to force each media outlet to be its own mini-market of ideas. But there is nothing structural that prevents talk radio, or any other media, from running liberal content if it is profitable. Arguments to the contrary rely on cartoonish visions of plutocrats passing up profit in favor of ideological purity — cartoonish visions that rather resemble conservative complaints about the liberal media, in fact.
We'll see whether Congress chooses to test the boundaries of President Obama's opposition to the Fairness Doctrine.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Hate Speech Debate on More Perfect Live - September 5th, 2017
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017