The Neutral Doctrine? The Fairness Doctrine for the Net

FCC Commissioner McDowell recently warned bloggers at the Heritage Foundation to look out for the Net neutrality issue to become intertwined with a possible push for the return of the Fairness Doctrine. He's right to lay down that marker.  

  • See a great piece by Jeff Poor of the Business and Media Institute on the subject: "FCC Commissioner: Return of Fairness Doctrine could control web content."

The Fairness Doctrine was an FCC regulation that required broadcasters to "fairly" present both sides of controversial topics -- or be subject to FCC investigations and fines.

  • Supreme Court decisions in 1984 and 1986 ultimately found that The Fairness Doctrine was an unconstitutional "chilling" of free speech.
  • In 1987, the Patrick FCC during the Reagan Administration abolished the Fairness Doctrine 4-0 declaring that it "actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public..."
  • They were dead right; the abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine effectively birthed today's vibrant talk radio industry.

Why Commissioner McDowell is correct in linking the Fairness Doctrine to net neutrality is that, at core, supporters of both see Government regulation as necessary and the best way to "guarantee" free speech. (Never mind that the Constitutional concern of the Founding Fathers was that Government, not individuals or companies, was the biggest threat to free speech.)

  • Moreover, current prominent proponents of the Fairness Doctrine and net neutrality, House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid, believe large corporations pose the primary risk to free speech and not the Government.
  • Furthermore, it is telling that one of the most prominent leaders of the net neutrality movement, FreePress, -- other big issue is Stop Big Media. (The neutralism movement sees media "fairness" and Internet "fairness/neutrality" as one in the same.)


Bottomline: Don't be fooled by the neutralism movement's retooling, rebranding, and updating their ongoing concern about media "fairness" as net neutrality, open access and Internet Freedom. At core, neutralists want Big Government to control the ecosystem for generating Internet media/content -- not free-market forces.

Think of The Fairness Doctrine of the 21st century as "The Neutral Doctrine."

  • Neutralists do... they just won't admit it in public because it would expose their unpopular hidden agenda.