For Immediate Release:
Dave Aeikens, SPJ President, (320) 255-8744,
Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 211,
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists, celebrating 100 years of journalism and free speech advocacy, opposes reintroduction of the Fairness Doctrine, which would allow the government to control broadcast editorial content.
“SPJ in general opposes government intervention on speech. The Fairness Doctrine does that and discussion about having it again should end,” said SPJ President Dave Aeikens. “The SPJ Code of Ethics requires fairness in news coverage, but we don’t want the government to mandate that.” Read the SPJ ethics code here.
Although no bill has been formally introduced in Congress to mandate the doctrine or otherwise change Federal Communications Commission rules, its reinstatement after a 22-year hiatus has been discussed frequently in recent months. Some members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have indicated support for the Fairness Doctrine. President Obama, however, has stated he does not favor its return.
The history of the doctrine and its use by the FCC began in 1949, when broadcasting regulations first stipulated attention to both sides of a controversial issue. However, the original policy did not require equal airtime. The largely informal policy was officially codified in FCC regulations in 1967 and unsuccessfully challenged by Supreme Court cases in 1969 (Red Lion Broadcasting v FCC) and 1984 (FCC v League of Women Voters of California). Without judicial or legislative intervention, the FCC repealed the doctrine in 1987.
SPJ believes firmly that just as government has no business regulating words printed in a newspaper, the public good is not served by mandating how to broadcast news or opinions on radio or television.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.