There is a fundamental inconsistency in the current political fairness and access rules for U.S. broadcasting. While political candidates enjoy a long-standing right of access to broadcast stations to express their views and attack and answer attacks from opponents, stations have no obligation to be fair to noncandidate citizens who may be personally attacked, nor to make any good-faith effort to present opposing views on controversial public issues. However, this has not always been the case. Under the Fairness Doctrine, in place from 1949 to 1987, broadcasters were expected to present controversial issues of public importance and provide reasonable opportunity for opposing views. Since the electromagnetic spectrum is a limited public resource, broadcasters using it must serve the public interest in exchange for the privilege of holding a license. Traditionally, this meant abiding by the candidate fairness rules as well as following general fairness expectations and rules with regard to non-candidate citizens and public issues.
Mark R. Arbuckle,
Political Broadcasting Fairness in the Twenty-First Century: Putting Candidates and the Public on Equal First Amendment Footing,
36 Hastings Comm. & Ent.L.J. 27
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_comm_ent_law_journal/vol36/iss1/2