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Should Stations Be Required to Present Diverse Viewpoints?

The House of Representatives will most likely not debate a Republican proposed bill to outlaw the "Fairness Doctrine." The FCC stopped using the Fairness Doctrine, which attempted to ensure equal airtime for different perspectives on controversial issues, during the Reagan Administration. Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Tuesday that Democrats would rather revive the federal policy of forced evenhandedness.

Critics of the Fairness Doctrine argue that it violates the First Amendment. Instead of facilitating complex debates, equal opportunity resulted in no opportunity for controversial discussions. Some of Speaker Pelosi's opponents worry that if the doctrine is revived, this chilling effect would extend to commentators like Rush Limbaugh. Small stations, which cannot afford a counter to Rush, would simply not talk about tough issues.

Should the Fairness Doctrine be put to rest, as there surely is no lack of space in the radio and cable television sphere? Can we rely on the viewers to judge a station's bias — and how bias is too bias?


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