Fairness Doctrine on trial at Tiger Bay listen11/20/08 Seán Kinane
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From its adoption in 1949 until it was repealed in 1987, the fairness doctrine required that all broadcast media address controversial issues that are of concern to the public and present contrasting points of view. Should it be brought back? That was the debate this afternoon at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.
Jim Barrens is a community organizer and he runs a website called The Justice Factory. In part because AM radio now is dominated by right-wing talk programming, Barrens supports reinstating some version of the fairness doctrine to help improve the discourse.
According to Barrens, time is wasting to reclaim broadcast media. “These public airwaves are ours.”
Ben Kirby spoke against reinstating the fairness doctrine. He said the fairness doctrine is not needed, and quoted the campaign of President-elect Barack Obama.
An article in the Dec. 3 issue of The New Republic asserts that there really is no push by Democrats to reinstate the fairness doctrine, rather it is a scare tactic used by the right. Kirby said he read the article and has come to a similar conclusion through his research.
Barrens, who supports reinstating the fairness doctrine, agrees that it has been used as a “political football.”
WMNF is broadcast on the public airwaves and would be subject to the fairness doctrine if it is reinstated. We asked both Barrens and Kirby what effect it could have on the station. Barrens said that each station would determine how to comply with the fairness doctrine. Kirby predicted that WMNF and other community radio stations might have to institute changes under a new fairness doctrine.
The next Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting is Dec. 12 at the Feather Sound Country Club, where U.S. Rep. Bill Young will speak.
Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF