THE GOOD GUYS, THE BAD GUYS AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT: Free Speech vs. Fairness in Broadcasting by Fred Friendly

THE GOOD GUYS, THE BAD GUYS AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT: Free Speech vs. Fairness in Broadcasting

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Does the FCC Fairness Doctrine conflict with the First Amendment fight of free speech? Does the obligation of broadcasters to use the airwaves in the public interest extend to providing ""access"" and ""reply time"" to opposing viewpoints? If so, at what point does government regulation become censorship, inhibiting and constricting the content of programming?. Friendly, former president' of CBS News, threads his way through the tangled history of executive mandates, court cases, and license revocations from the early days of radio when Aimee Semple McPherson telegraphed Hoover ""You cannot expect the Almighty to abide by your wave-length nonsense"" to the obscure but sinister case of Red Lion Broadcasting. The tiny right-wing station in Pennsylvania which battled the Fairness Doctrine right up to the Supreme Court becomes an object lesson in the political manipulation of a civil liberties precept. Going on, Friendly reveals the unsavory details of how the Kennedy Administration and the National Democratic Committee used the Red Lion case to organize a harassment campaign against ""'extremist"" radio stations inimical to the Democrats. It's a provocative book and an impressive marshaling of arguments pro and con, even if some will be disappointed that at the end Friendly comes down foursquare on the side of those who advocate ""voluntary long-term commitment"" to prime-time airing of controversial issues in preference to FCC scrutiny of what goes on in the news room. He calls for a kind of electronic Op-Ed page and puts his trust in the discretion of broadcasters as against the surveillance of seven political appointees of the FCC. This puts him on the side of William O. Douglas and Rev. Carl McIntire. Broadcast politics makes strange bedfellows.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1976
Publisher: Random House