The Press: Who Decides Fairness?

When it became a regulation in 1949, the Federal Communications Commission's fairness doctrine was considered a boon for electronic journalism. Now, in an important test case pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, the National Broadcasting Co. claims that the FCC'S current interpretation of the rule will throttle investigative reporting.

The doctrine originally freed radio and television from a 1940 FCC ban on airwave editorializing and crusading. But it also required broadcasters to give "reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues." The FCC promised not to...

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