More on the FD

Donna Halper
Sat Feb 28 16:51:23 EST 2009

At 04:33 PM 2/28/2009, Dan Billings wrote:
>If someone complained that a broadcaster did not cover an issue of 
>importance in a balanced and equitable way, the government would 
>decide if that was true or not.  That is the government deciding 
>whether speech is fair or not.

Oh dear.  That's not how the FD was applied.  News was expected to be 
neutral and based on facts.  Commentary was allowed, but it had to be 
identified as commentary. And commentary could not contain slanderous 
personal attacks.  If a commentator said something a member of the 
public disagreed with, that listener could write to the station or 
call in during a talk show.  And even enough people complained, then 
a responsible spokespeople who wanted to respond to an editorial or a 
commentary was supposed to be given time to express that opposing view.

So for example, there was a station in the midwest (I am forgetting 
the name, but I recall the case) that was, for all intents and 
purposes, the voice of the Ku Klux Klan.  A civil rights organization 
asked for equal time to present a response to some of the assertions 
made on the station.  How is that "the government deciding whether 
speech is fair or not"??? Radio stations were, and allegedly still 
are, public utilities and it was expected that they would allow other 
ideas to be heard.  Now, based on what I've read and what I recall, 
that NEVER meant if you broadcast X, you then were obligated to 
broadcast Y.  That's a durable but false right-wing myth.  Stations 
had formats and were allowed to have formats-- a top-40 station 
wasn't expected to stop and broadcast a classical record.  But if a 
station had commentators and the commentators mis-represented the 
facts of an issue, the station was expected to allow a responsible 
spokesman or women to give a reply.  How does doing that destroy 

More information about the Boston-Radio-Interest mailing list