Left, right, wrong

Letters to the Boston editor, August 10, 2007
By BOSTON PHOENIX LETTERS  |  August 8, 2007

Regarding “Dirty Politics”: surely Peter Keough can appreciate a good piece of balanced cinematic tomfoolery. Team America was as hard on liberal film stars as it was on hotheaded nationalism gone abroad. Remember, the film was made by two libertarians, and the joke fell equally on the jingoistic imperialism associated with neoconservatism.

The classic notion of liberals is that they seek change — that is, progressives generating new ideas. The classic notion of conservatives is that they want to return to the way things were and to restore things of old. Today, these definitions do not always align with what we think of as “conservative” and “liberal.” Conservatives are bringing us into new territory, such as an unprecedented war. And there are liberals who want to bring back the corpse of the Fairness Doctrine.

Sadly, interest groups have hijacked each school of thought and political party, and this is far worthier of note than the author’s unpleasant viewing experience of Thank You For Smoking. Let’s talk about how the labor unions and the religious right have a stronghold on the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively.

The notable fallacy here is that Keough seems to think that it is the duty of revolutionary liberals to make art that attacks the government — but only when it is the government that is not convenient to their liking.

Unfortunately, the Phoenix allowed this callow line of thought into their newspaper.

Trent England

Unfair fight
The Phoenix’s editorial regarding the Fairness Doctrine is seriously confused.

The Fairness Doctrine and the so-called equal-time provision are two totally different things. It is therefore incorrect to say, as you do, that the Fairness Doctrine is “better known as the equal-time provision.”

The Fairness Doctrine was a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policy requiring that broadcast licensees (i.e., radio and television stations) allow reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance. The policy was adopted by the FCC in 1949 and withdrawn by it in 1987.

The equal-time provision is a federal law — 47 USC Section 315 — providing that, if a broadcast radio or television station (the applicability to cable or satellite TV has never been clearly determined) affords a qualified candidate for public office access to its airwaves, it has to provide equal access to other qualified candidates. (There are exceptions for news programs and other shows, considerably diminishing the real significance of this requirement.)

Thus, the Fairness Doctrine is a policy that was previously adopted by an agency of the federal government. Therefore, that agency could rescind the policy, as indeed it did. The equal-time provision is a federal law — which, as it happens, is still in effect, and which would require action by Congress to revoke.

It happens that Congress has at several times sought, unsuccessfully, to enact the Fairness Doctrine into law; at this time, however, there does not appear to be anything close to an inclination on the part of Congress to do so. (In fact, quite the contrary.)

The Phoenix is not alone in confusing the Fairness Doctrine with the equal-time provision; on a New York public radio talk show a month ago, John Kerry actually argued that what he called the “equal-time doctrine” “ought to come back.” It is back, because it was never revoked, and Kerry is one of those who would have to vote on any proposal to do so.

Robert Cohen

Editor’s note
In “Edifice Complex,” Adam Reilly wrote that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center hosted the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The BCEC hosted the media party prior to the event; the convention was held at the TD Banknorth Garden (then called the FleetCenter).

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