FCC chairman agrees to strike Fairness Doctrine from rulebooks

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said his agency will remove the Fairness Doctrine from the rulebooks in response to a recent request from House Republicans.

"I fully support deleting the Fairness Doctrine and related provisions from the Code of Federal Regulations, so that there can be no mistake that what has been a dead letter is truly dead," Genachowski wrote in a letter Monday to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

"I look forward to effectuating this change when acting on the staff's recommendations and anticipate that the process can be completed in the near future."

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Genachowski has frequently voiced his opposition to the rule, which required broadcasters to cover controversial public issues in a manner deemed fair and balanced by the FCC.

The commission stopped enforcing the rule in 1987 after concluding it was unconstitutional, but in recent years some Democrats have suggested reviving the policy in response to the increasingly partisan nature of cable news.

Upton and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote to Genachowski last month asking him to strike the rule, citing the Obama administration's ongoing effort to clear up outdated regulations.

Genachowski agreed with the lawmakers' request, but noted the doctrine is already dead without a fresh vote from the commission.

"In my view, the Fairness Doctrine holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas and, accordingly, was properly abandoned," Genachowski said.

The lawmakers praised the FCC chairman for complying with their request, and asked for details of the process in a letter sent Wednesday.

“We are heartened by your continued opposition to the Fairness Doctrine because of its chilling effects on free speech and the free flow of ideas,” Upton and Walden wrote. “When precisely will you eliminate the Fairness Doctrine and related regulations? What is involved? Do you have the support of your fellow commissioners? How long will it take?”

The pair also asked for details of the FCC's other efforts at deregulation, including estimates of how many jobs the efforts would produce.