Deep-Sixing the 'Furnace Doctrine'

News Note: Chairmen Fred Upton (R-MI) and Greg Walden (R-OR) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are pleased to share the good news that the FCC has finally eliminated the Fairness Doctrine from the Code of Federal Regulations. They have been pressing the FCC to take this action and welcome this long overdue development.

It's one of those "inside baseball" news stories, but it's vitally important.  It was sent to me by a good friend on the committee's staff.

What it means is that we will continue to be a free people, nothing less.  President Reagan famously called on the Soviet ruler, Mikhail Gorbachev, to "tear down this wall."  And it fell.

But Reagan also took care to remove another wall that inhibited freedom of information -- the so-called Fairness Doctrine of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  This rule was little-known to the American people, but it effectively limited free political expression in this country.  Liberals have been desperate to bring it back.

I call it the Furnace Doctrine, because it threw some of our First Amendment freedoms into the furnace.  The Furnace Doctrine said that all publicly regulated airwaves had to present two sides to issues.  With liberals dominating the media, that meant they got to choose how to present the two sides.

Take PBS' famous Shields-Gergen match-up.  Ultra-liberal Mark Shields would be presented on the Jim Lehrer NewsHour as the Democrat; David Gergen would be offered as the Republican.  Well, Gergen had served in Republican White Houses, to be sure.

And in Democratic White Houses, too.

Mr. Gergen's principles are, shall we say, flexible.  If Democrats proposed doing away with the Ten Commandments, Mr. Gergen could be relied upon to be the voice of reason: Why don't we just pare them back to Five?

For more than twenty years, Uncle Walter Cronkite ended his CBS evening news broadcasts with "and that's the way it is."  And the entire liberal chorus said: "Amen!"

Interesting sidelight here: in the 1970s, ex-Gov. Ronald Reagan was looking for ways to keep in touch with his large national following.  He signed a contract with the Mutual Broadcasting System to provide three-minute radio commentaries.  When loyal aide Mike Deaver came in with a peach of a deal from CBS television, he tried to persuade Reagan to drop Mutual.

CBS was offering Reagan a three-times-a-week slot as the conservative responder to veteran liberal commentator Eric Severeid.  Tens of millions would see Reagan in that role.  How could he say no?

But he did.  Mutual has been good to us, Reagan told Deaver, determined not to try to wiggle out of a signed contract.  "And besides," he said with a grin, "on radio, they won't get tired of me."

Reagan was a pioneer of television.  In the 1950s, most American families received only two or three television stations, and Ronald Reagan was on one of them every week.

Reagan, this most careful student of movies, TV, and radio, understood the dangers of overexposure.  Poor Bill Clinton and poor Barack Obama never understood those dangers.  Go to any airport and watch people's reactions to President Obama coming on the TV monitors (all predictably set to CNN).  People ignore him.  That's a sad fate for a rock star.

Getting rid of the Furnace Doctrine means that we're going to have some ravers and ranters on the radio and on MSNBC.  It's going to be raucous.  But it's going to be free.

Thomas Jefferson was asked whether he would prefer a free government or free newspapers.  He chose a free press, for then we should soon have free government, he said.

Thank you, Chairmen Upton and Walden, for deep-sixing the Furnace Doctrine.  I'll bet there's a "harmless little fuzzball" grinning in front of an EIB golden microphone.  He's lighting up a celebratory cigar over this one, too: Ronaldus Magnus wins again.

Robert Morrison served in the Reagan administration and is currently a Senior Fellow at Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

News Note: Chairmen Fred Upton (R-MI) and Greg Walden (R-OR) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are pleased to share the good news that the FCC has finally eliminated the Fairness Doctrine from the Code of Federal Regulations. They have been pressing the FCC to take this action and welcome this long overdue development.

It's one of those "inside baseball" news stories, but it's vitally important.  It was sent to me by a good friend on the committee's staff.

What it means is that we will continue to be a free people, nothing less.  President Reagan famously called on the Soviet ruler, Mikhail Gorbachev, to "tear down this wall."  And it fell.

But Reagan also took care to remove another wall that inhibited freedom of information -- the so-called Fairness Doctrine of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  This rule was little-known to the American people, but it effectively limited free political expression in this country.  Liberals have been desperate to bring it back.

I call it the Furnace Doctrine, because it threw some of our First Amendment freedoms into the furnace.  The Furnace Doctrine said that all publicly regulated airwaves had to present two sides to issues.  With liberals dominating the media, that meant they got to choose how to present the two sides.

Take PBS' famous Shields-Gergen match-up.  Ultra-liberal Mark Shields would be presented on the Jim Lehrer NewsHour as the Democrat; David Gergen would be offered as the Republican.  Well, Gergen had served in Republican White Houses, to be sure.

And in Democratic White Houses, too.

Mr. Gergen's principles are, shall we say, flexible.  If Democrats proposed doing away with the Ten Commandments, Mr. Gergen could be relied upon to be the voice of reason: Why don't we just pare them back to Five?

For more than twenty years, Uncle Walter Cronkite ended his CBS evening news broadcasts with "and that's the way it is."  And the entire liberal chorus said: "Amen!"

Interesting sidelight here: in the 1970s, ex-Gov. Ronald Reagan was looking for ways to keep in touch with his large national following.  He signed a contract with the Mutual Broadcasting System to provide three-minute radio commentaries.  When loyal aide Mike Deaver came in with a peach of a deal from CBS television, he tried to persuade Reagan to drop Mutual.

CBS was offering Reagan a three-times-a-week slot as the conservative responder to veteran liberal commentator Eric Severeid.  Tens of millions would see Reagan in that role.  How could he say no?

But he did.  Mutual has been good to us, Reagan told Deaver, determined not to try to wiggle out of a signed contract.  "And besides," he said with a grin, "on radio, they won't get tired of me."

Reagan was a pioneer of television.  In the 1950s, most American families received only two or three television stations, and Ronald Reagan was on one of them every week.

Reagan, this most careful student of movies, TV, and radio, understood the dangers of overexposure.  Poor Bill Clinton and poor Barack Obama never understood those dangers.  Go to any airport and watch people's reactions to President Obama coming on the TV monitors (all predictably set to CNN).  People ignore him.  That's a sad fate for a rock star.

Getting rid of the Furnace Doctrine means that we're going to have some ravers and ranters on the radio and on MSNBC.  It's going to be raucous.  But it's going to be free.

Thomas Jefferson was asked whether he would prefer a free government or free newspapers.  He chose a free press, for then we should soon have free government, he said.

Thank you, Chairmen Upton and Walden, for deep-sixing the Furnace Doctrine.  I'll bet there's a "harmless little fuzzball" grinning in front of an EIB golden microphone.  He's lighting up a celebratory cigar over this one, too: Ronaldus Magnus wins again.

Robert Morrison served in the Reagan administration and is currently a Senior Fellow at Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

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