October 29, 2007

JOHN FUND says that renewed interest in the “Fairness” Doctrine is all about liberals’ failure to compete in talk radio:

The stakes are high. “Lovers of liberty must expose calls to restore the Fairness Doctrine for the fraudulent power-grab that they plainly are,” writes Brian Anderson, editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

That’s because the attempts to control the airwaves won’t stop with so-called equal time rules. Al Franken, the liberal former Air America host who is now running for the Senate in Minnesota, is already slipping into the role of potential legislative censor of his old industry. “You shouldn’t be able to lie on the air,” he told Newsweek’s Mr. Fineman earlier this year. “You can’t utter obscenities in a broadcast, so why should you be able to lie? You should be fined for lying.”

In fact, you can be “fined” for lying, if the person you lie about successfully sues for defamation. But the First Amendment makes it exceedingly difficult for defamation plaintiffs to prevail, especially if they are public figures–and for good reason.

Given how things are going at The New Republic, the “fines for lying” idea seems a risky move.

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