THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE AND THE MEDIA by Steven J. Simmons

THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE AND THE MEDIA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author, a lawyer, past college instructor, and present White House assistant, has fashioned a clear, up-to-date description and critical analysis of broadcasting's ""fairness doctrine,"" that policy of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) whereby radio and television stations are expected to editorialize on public issues, and then provide air time for opposing views. Simmons' task is an onerous one: the FCC, courts, and Congress have been wildly inconsistent in enunciating and enforcing the doctrine, all the while extending its effects to many areas of broadcasting. Simmons ultimately seized upon that administrative disharmony in advocating the restriction of the doctrine to station editorials only. He demonstrates, to the point of pedantic repetition, how cumbersome--and potentially dangerous--it is to apply the doctrine to entertainment programming, broadcast news, and advertising. A few news documentaries, but not all, are deemed unfairly biased by the FCC; yet the Commission could draw upon the doctrine to dictate to TV news departments what may or may not be aired as news, thus discouraging commercial TV from the scheduling of news altogether. Carefully researched and plainly written, Simmons' work focuses on key decisions of the FCC and courts and is at once comprehensive and coherent. In contrast to so many communications lawyers, Simmons makes legal materials fit social questions.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1978
Publisher: Univ. of California Press