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Thursday, 23 March 1972
Page: 858

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:

What are the general principles of the fairness doctrine' of the Federal Communications Commission of the United States of America?

Senator GREENWOOD - The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The 'fairness doctrine' of the United States Federal Communications Commission was developed in 1949 and restated in 1969. It can be described as follows:

The doctrine requires that the broadcast licensee -

(1)   encourage, implement and foster the carriage of programming designed to expose public issues; and

(2)   afford a reasonable opportunity for all sides of important controversial issues to be aired by the licensee's station.

In practice the doctrine has been difficult to interpret. The Commission stated that it was within the discretion of the licensee, acting reasonably and in good faith, to choose the precise means of achieving 'fairness'. This ruling is in doubt following a decision in 1971 by the United States Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia which in effect interpreted the doctrine as meaning that a broadcaster cannot refuse to sell advertising time to groups or individuals wishing to speak out on controversial public issues.

It is understood that the present position is that the Commission and broadcasters are endeavouring to develop regulations which would rationalise these 2 approaches.

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