Stuart Epperson
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The First Amendment statesCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

This was worked out in Colonial and Revolutionary times with the correct assumption that the government would almost never be neutral.

Freedom of Speech has always meant… Absence of Government Control.

The Fairness Doctrine Defined – Government requirement that when a certain position on a controversial issue of public importance is broadcast, the broadcast licensee is required to present the other side of the issue.

Fairness Doctrine History

The Radio Act of 1927 created the Radio Commission (later becoming the Federal Communication Commission or FCC) and its successor the 1934 Communications Act created a government system of granting licenses for publicly owned broadcast frequencies.  The major condition attached was to "operate with public interest."  The FCC was charged with enforcement.

Starting in 1929, the "public interest" condition was interpreted as requiring that a licensee provide "ample play for the free and fair competition of opposing views on all discussions of issues of importance to the public."

Over the years this developed into the Fairness Doctrine and became an integral part of FCC mandate.

In 1949, the FCC issued two requirements regarding Editorials on Radio… "Broadcasters must give adequate coverage to public issues and this coverage must accurately reflect opposing views on the issue."

In 1959, Congress amended Sec. 315 of the Communication Act with the Equal Time Provision…  "The licensee that allows one candidate to use the broadcast station shall afford equal opportunities to all other candidates for that office."  It also stated that nothing in the amended Section 315 relieves Broadcasters of the "obligation" to "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance."

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Stuart Epperson

Stuart Epperson, Chairman of Salem Communications Corporation.

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