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When Government Tries to Equalize Free Speech – We End Up With Zero Speech

The First Amendment reads (in part): ‚ÄúCongress shall make no law‚Ķabridging the freedom of speech‚Ķ.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúAbridge‚ÄĚ is legally defined as: ‚Äú‚Ķ(T)he making of a declaration or count shorter, by taking or severing away some of the substance from it.‚ÄĚ The Founders prohibited the government from not just silencing speech – but from doing anything at all to in any way reduce it.

Not at all surprisingly, two government speech regulations ended up doing exactly what the Constitution was written to prevent it doing. Behold the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-imposed Fairness Doctrine and Equal Time provision.

These inanities were inflicted on anyone who had a broadcast license on spectrum given to them by the government. (That’s over-the-air television and radio.) These regs left most such recipients regretting mightily not having just paid for the airwaves Рso as to have gotten (at least a little) out from under government’s massive thumb.

These two First Amendment assaults were imposed in the name of government-defined-and-mandated speech ‚Äúequality.‚ÄĚ As usual, government fundamentally misrepresents its charter. It is required to ensure equality of opportunity – not empowered to impose equality of outcome. Anyone can say anything they want – that‚Äôs Constitutional opportunity. Anyone else receiving a government-mandated equal chance on the same platform – is unConstitutional free speech abridgment. How so? Here goes‚Ķ.

The Fairness Doctrine ‚Äúwas a policy‚Ķintroduced in 1949 that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was-in the Commission’s view-honest, equitable, and balanced.‚ÄĚ

How’d that work in practice? So you’re a radio station owner. Your business model and imperative is to program your station Рstrategically planning each broadcast minute so as to maximize your audience. You of course want the most compelling people on the air.

How can you do this if every yahoo on the planet can Рat any time at all Рdemand access to your airwaves? Yahoos who may not be…the most intriguing, articulate of individuals. And the rampant schedule volatility would render your business totally dysfunctional. You couldn’t program your station even five minutes in advance Рas you would be suffering an insufferable parade of Fairness Doctrine-imposed yahoos lining up to access your microphone.

So in the name of equalized speech, the Fairness Doctrine resulted in Рzero speech. Station owners would simply not inform their audiences about anything that might invoke the absurdity. How do we know the Fairness Doctrine did this? Because the Ronald Reagan Administration’s FCC voted to stop enforcing it, and months later Rush Limbaugh began his nationally syndicated radio rise Рand the talk radio revolution. The results were so obvious Рthe Barack Obama Administration’s FCC officially removed the language that imposed the Doctrine. Not because they too thought it was awful policy Рbut because the politics of it were so against them.

Is this Administration finished with abridging free speech? Of course not.

FCC Chief Vows to Require ‚ÄúEqual Time‚ÄĚ on TV for Candidates

“The head of the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion prom­ised Thursday to en­force his agency’s reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing tele­vi­sion sta­tions to give polit­ic­al can­did­ates equal op­por­tun­it­ies for air­time.

‚Äė‚ÄúThe rules are pretty clear. Rules are rules,‚Äô FCC Chair¬≠man Tom Wheel¬≠er told re¬≠port¬≠ers Thursday. ‚ÄėI hope that we have de¬≠veloped a repu¬≠ta¬≠tion as folks who en¬≠force the rules.‚Äô‚ÄĚ

Actually, you’ve developed a reputation for making up rules without any Congressional authority whatsoever Рand then unilaterally imposing them. But we digress. Behold Equal Time:

 

“…U.S. radio and television broadcast stations must provide an equivalent opportunity to any opposing political candidates who request it. This means, for example, that if a station gives one free minute to a candidate in prime time, it must do the same for another candidate who requests it.

‚ÄúThe equal-time rule was created because the FCC thought the stations could easily manipulate the outcome of elections by presenting just one point of view, and excluding other candidates.‚ÄĚ

You think? The near-uniformly-Leftist broadcast news media bias is cataclysmic – which easily manipulates the outcome of LOTS of elections. But Equal Time doesn‚Äôt apply to news programs – and the FCC has interpreted ‚Äúnews programs‚ÄĚ to include (near-uniformly-Leftist) late night shows like NBC‚Äôs Tonight Show.

Which brings us back to this latest imposition of Equal Time:

‚ÄúHil¬≠lary Clin¬≠ton‚Äôs ap¬≠pear¬≠ance earli¬≠er this month on Sat¬≠urday Night Live could trig¬≠ger the so-called ‚Äėequal-time‚Äô rules, as could Don¬≠ald Trump‚Äôs plan to host the long-run¬≠ning NBC com¬≠edy show next month.‚ÄĚ

Clinton’s appearance elicited no response from the FCC. The moment Trump’s prospective appearance was announced РFCC Chairman Wheeler was suddenly activated. Well, someone should ask the Chairman how or why Saturday Night Live is regulated Рwhile the Tonight Show is not.

‚ÄúThat doesn‚Äôt ne¬≠ces¬≠sar¬≠ily mean Lin¬≠coln Chafee will be the next host of SNL‚ÄĒbut it could mean that loc¬≠al NBC af¬≠fil¬≠i¬≠ates across the coun¬≠try will have to give pres¬≠id¬≠en¬≠tial can¬≠did¬≠ates ac¬≠cess to equal TV time.‚ÄĚ

So in the name of equalized speech, Equal Time will also result in Рzero speech. These local NBC affiliates face the same programming challenges radio broadcasters do. Like radio broadcasters, they don’t want to have their schedules constantly shredded by random, incessant, government-mandated (candidate) on-air appearances. So these affiliates will likely, ultimately demand that their parent networks stop giving airtime to ANY candidates. Thus Рzero speech.

FCC Chairman Wheeler finally rid us of a Fairness Doctrine that was incredibly damaging to free speech and the marketplace. He should do the same to an Equal Time provision doing the exact same damage. Don’t enforce it Рeradicate it.

Oh Рand it is now abundantly clear that the FCC long ago ran out of lawful, helpful things to do. So when it is not enforcing ridiculous laws that shouldn’t exist, it is illegally making up regulations Рso as to then enforce them.   Idle bureaucrat hands.…

Congress should put the FCC out of all of our misery – and eradicate it.

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When Government Tries to Equalize Free Speech – We End Up With Zero Speech

The First Amendment reads (in part): ‚??Congress shall make no law‚?¶abridging the freedom of speech‚?¶.‚?Ě ‚??Abridge‚?Ě is legally defined as: ‚??‚?¶(T)he making of a declaration or count shorter, by taking or severing away some of the substance from it.‚?Ě

The First Amendment reads (in part): ‚??Congress shall make no law‚?¶abridging the freedom of speech‚?¶.‚?Ě ‚??Abridge‚?Ě is legally defined as: ‚??‚?¶(T)he making of a declaration or count shorter, by taking or severing away some of the substance from it.‚?Ě The Founders prohibited the government from not just silencing speech – but from doing anything at all to in any way reduce it.

Not at all surprisingly, two government speech regulations ended up doing exactly what the Constitution was written to prevent it doing. Behold the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-imposed Fairness Doctrine and Equal Time provision.

These inanities were inflicted on anyone who had a broadcast license on spectrum given to them by the government. (That‚??s over-the-air television and radio.) These regs left most such recipients regretting mightily not having just paid for the airwaves – so as to have gotten (at least a little) out from under government‚??s massive thumb.

These two First Amendment assaults were imposed in the name of government-defined-and-mandated speech ‚??equality.‚?Ě As usual, government fundamentally misrepresents its charter. It is required to ensure equality of opportunity – not empowered to impose equality of outcome. Anyone can say anything they want – that‚??s Constitutional opportunity. Anyone else receiving a government-mandated equal chance on the same platform – is unConstitutional free speech abridgment. How so? Here goes‚?¶.

The Fairness Doctrine ‚??was a policy‚?¶introduced in 1949 that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was-in the Commission’s view-honest, equitable, and balanced.‚?Ě

How‚??d that work in practice? So you‚??re a radio station owner. Your business model and imperative is to program your station – strategically planning each broadcast minute so as to maximize your audience. You of course want the most compelling people on the air.

How can you do this if every yahoo on the planet can – at any time at all – demand access to your airwaves? Yahoos who may not be‚?¶the most intriguing, articulate of individuals. And the rampant schedule volatility would render your business totally dysfunctional. You couldn‚??t program your station even five minutes in advance – as you would be suffering an insufferable parade of Fairness Doctrine-imposed yahoos lining up to access your microphone.

So in the name of equalized speech, the Fairness Doctrine resulted in – zero speech. Station owners would simply not inform their audiences about anything that might invoke the absurdity. How do we know the Fairness Doctrine did this? Because the Ronald Reagan Administration‚??s FCC voted to stop enforcing it, and months later Rush Limbaugh began his nationally syndicated radio rise – and the talk radio revolution. The results were so obvious – the Barack Obama Administration‚??s FCC officially removed the language that imposed the Doctrine. Not because they too thought it was awful policy – but because the politics of it were so against them.

Is this Administration finished with abridging free speech? Of course not.

FCC Chief Vows to Require ‚??Equal Time‚?Ě on TV for Candidates

‚??The head of the Fed¬≠er¬≠al Com¬≠mu¬≠nic¬≠a¬≠tions Com¬≠mis¬≠sion prom¬≠ised Thursday to en¬≠force his agency‚??s reg¬≠u¬≠la¬≠tions re¬≠quir¬≠ing tele¬≠vi¬≠sion sta¬≠tions to give polit¬≠ic¬≠al can¬≠did¬≠ates equal op¬≠por¬≠tun¬≠it¬≠ies for air¬≠time.

‚??‚??The rules are pretty clear. Rules are rules,‚?? FCC Chair¬≠man Tom Wheel¬≠er told re¬≠port¬≠ers Thursday. ‚??I hope that we have de¬≠veloped a repu¬≠ta¬≠tion as folks who en¬≠force the rules.‚??‚?Ě

Actually, you‚??ve developed a reputation for making up rules without any Congressional authority whatsoever – and then unilaterally imposing them. But we digress. Behold Equal Time:

 

‚??‚?¶U.S. radio and television broadcast stations must provide an equivalent opportunity to any opposing political candidates who request it. This means, for example, that if a station gives one free minute to a candidate in prime time, it must do the same for another candidate who requests it.

‚??The equal-time rule was created because the FCC thought the stations could easily manipulate the outcome of elections by presenting just one point of view, and excluding other candidates.‚?Ě

You think? The near-uniformly-Leftist broadcast news media bias is cataclysmic – which easily manipulates the outcome of LOTS of elections. But Equal Time doesn‚??t apply to news programs – and the FCC has interpreted ‚??news programs‚?Ě to include (near-uniformly-Leftist) late night shows like NBC‚??s Tonight Show.

Which brings us back to this latest imposition of Equal Time:

‚??Hil¬≠lary Clin¬≠ton‚??s ap¬≠pear¬≠ance earli¬≠er this month on Sat¬≠urday Night Live could trig¬≠ger the so-called ‚??equal-time‚?? rules, as could Don¬≠ald Trump‚??s plan to host the long-run¬≠ning NBC com¬≠edy show next month.‚?Ě

Clinton‚??s appearance elicited no response from the FCC. The moment Trump‚??s prospective appearance was announced – FCC Chairman Wheeler was suddenly activated. Well, someone should ask the Chairman how or why Saturday Night Live is regulated – while the Tonight Show is not.

‚??That doesn‚??t ne¬≠ces¬≠sar¬≠ily mean Lin¬≠coln Chafee will be the next host of SNL‚??but it could mean that loc¬≠al NBC af¬≠fil¬≠i¬≠ates across the coun¬≠try will have to give pres¬≠id¬≠en¬≠tial can¬≠did¬≠ates ac¬≠cess to equal TV time.‚?Ě

So in the name of equalized speech, Equal Time will also result in – zero speech. These local NBC affiliates face the same programming challenges radio broadcasters do. Like radio broadcasters, they don‚??t want to have their schedules constantly shredded by random, incessant, government-mandated (candidate) on-air appearances. So these affiliates will likely, ultimately demand that their parent networks stop giving airtime to ANY candidates. Thus – zero speech.

FCC Chairman Wheeler finally rid us of a Fairness Doctrine that was incredibly damaging to free speech and the marketplace. He should do the same to an Equal Time provision doing the exact same damage. Don‚??t enforce it – eradicate it.

Oh – and it is now abundantly clear that the FCC long ago ran out of lawful, helpful things to do. So when it is not enforcing ridiculous laws that shouldn‚??t exist, it is illegally making up regulations – so as to then enforce them.¬†¬† Idle bureaucrat hands.‚?¶

Congress should put the FCC out of all of our misery – and eradicate it.

Written By

Seton Motley is President of Less Government and Editor in Chief of StopNetRegulation.org, a project of the Center for Individual Freedom.

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