Civil libertarians feared that a change of administrations would herald a revived Fairness Doctrine, a policy that previously permitted the government to oversee broadcast news coverage for “balanced views.” A return to the Fairness Doctrine, however, now seems unlikely. It is very likely, however, that politicians from both the left and the right will try to extend government control over the media beyond current policies. New rules adopted or proposed by the Federal Communications Commission suggest that the agency may be poised to enforce the most intensive government oversight of broadcast programming in decades—perhaps even in the history of the agency. The FCC voted last year to require each broadcast licensee to file quarterly “enhanced disclosure” reports—highly detailed information regarding its programming and editorial choices. This information will be used by organized groups to file complaints to pressure broadcasters to air programming that the complainants prefer. The FCC is also formulating programming guidelines based on the enhanced disclosure reports purporting to ensure that broadcasters meet local needs. This “broadcast localism” effort may also require broadcasters to appoint local boards to oversee their performance and their editorial decisions. As the FCC seeks to expand regulation of broadcast media, the traditional justification for its authority—spectrum scarcity—has lost credibility, and the agency’s new efforts are likely to run afoul of the First Amendment.
Featuring Benjamin H. Friedman, Research Fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies, Cato Institute; Spencer Ackerman, Senior Writer, WIRED Magazine; and Julian Sanchez, Research Fellow, Cato Institute; moderated by Laura Odato, Director of Government Affairs, Cato Institute.
Featured PublicationWe are grateful to the Harry and Lynde Bradley Foundation and the Carthage Foundation whose support of the October 2012 Cato Conference “Europe’s Crisis and the Welfare State: Lessons for the United States” made possible this special issue of the Cato Journal.
May 23, 2013
May 23, 2013
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More Bang for Your Buck
The Cato Institute tops a new measure of think tank performance in the United States, according to a recent report. Cato bested all other U.S. think tanks in the main category of “Aggregate Profile per Dollar Spent.” “I’m grateful to the Center for Global Development for showing that Cato gives its sponsors something I wish government gave more of to taxpayers: bang for the buck,” said Cato CEO John Allison.