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No "Fair" Fight?

(CBS/AP)
There's been a slight uptick in discussion regarding the validity and need for the "Fairness Doctrine" lately, spurred on by a study proving/reiterating the obvious fact that conservative talkers make up the majority of syndicated radio programming. (Allow me to hit rewind: The "Fairness Doctrine" was a broadcasting rule requiring that equal time be given to differing political views, and was repealed in the '80s.)

The only thing wrong with this debate? There really wasn't one. An amusing facet of the quote-unquote debate has been the fact that very few people were actually advocating for the reinstatement of the rule; some pushing in that direction were accused of misreading the report. Said the thinktank responsible for the study that pointed out the imbalance said – and I quote – "Forget the Fairness Doctrine."

And today it was reported that FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin concurs:

"In my judgment, the events of the last two decades have confirmed the wisdom of the commission's decision to abolish the Fairness Doctrine," wrote Mr. Martin, a Republican, in a letter dated Monday and released yesterday.

"Discussion of controversial issues over the airwaves has flourished absent regulatory constraints, and the public now enjoys access to an ever-expanding range of views and opinions. Indeed, with the continued proliferation of additional sources of information and programming, including satellite broadcasting and the Internet, the need for the Fairness Doctrine has lessened ever further since 1987."

The Los Angeles Times this week weighed in on the topic as well, violently agreeing with the authors and the FCC, as they wrote in an editorial:
But the danger posed by the Fairness Doctrine is broader and more fundamental than an attack on a radio format. No matter what your point of view might be, you have free or inexpensive outlets available today to express them -- maybe not a radio or TV station but certainly a website, a video blog, a podcast or an e-mail newsletter. At the same time, the public has unprecedented access to a diverse array of opinions. Just as the government shouldn't decide what you say on the channels you create, nor should it be able to dictate the range of opinions people hear over the air.

Granted, broadcasters remain the most powerful voices because they're the ones with the largest audiences. But that's because the public chooses to tune them in, not because there are no alternatives. Restoring the government's power to monitor broadcasters' fulminations and splice in opposing views seems more likely to tame speech than to enlighten listeners.

So that's it, folks. Sorry for the let-down ... nothing to see here. Given the fact that the media landscape is widening with options and flattening as far as each option's impact, the "Fairness Doctrine" is gone to stay. Sure, the Hannitys and Limbaughs are power brokers, but the 'big bang' of media options -- from satellite radio to liberal radio to blogs to streaming video online -- has created an amount of ideological parity that makes the "Fairness Doctrine" feel downright anachronistic, like a landline in an iPhone world.