In 1949 Congress passed a law regulating media coverage of controversial issues called the Fairness Doctrine. This piece of legislation required that the major #News network provide balanced coverage of controversial issues their news programs reported. The major networks were required to provide equal air time to both sides of the issue, regardless of the political or moral leanings of the ownership of the network. Television was just becoming a popular medium at the time, and lawmakers were concerned that the very limited number of networks available could mean that networks could shape and control public opinion. They were concerned that the three major networks -- CBS, ABC, and NBC -- would be able to dictate what the public thought by manipulating the flow of information. 

In 1987 the Fairness Doctrine was repealed. This was during the Reagan era and some argued that the main reason for repealing the legislation was that it was restricting the media from freely speaking about Reagan's administration. The general consensus was that the legislation was repealed because it impinged on the media's right to free speech. Forcing the media to present both sides of the story was painted as a violation of the First Amendment

Election 2016

Fast forward to this year's primary season. It would be difficult to argue that the coverage of #Election 2016 has given equal coverage to both sides of the controversial primaries. Instead of being committed to showing the public all the options for the party nominations, the media has chosen to cover the candidates that make the best soundbytes. Trump has received much more media coverage than any other candidate, certainly more than any of the other Republican candidates. Clinton received much more attention than the other Democratic candidates early on in the race, and though Sanders' coverage has increased the longer he stays in the race, his coverage is almost always in relation to how his campaign effects Clinton's campaign. When debates are taken out of the equation, media coverage has chosen to show much more about Trump and Clinton than any other candidate.

The changes to the debate structure for Election 2016 also shows the media's unwillingness to present both sides of the argument. The "debates" were run like a panel interview rather than traditional debates. Questions were posed to individual candidates with almost no time given to other candidates for rebuttals or follow ups. Candidates were not called out for going off on tangents or completely ignoring the questions and saying whatever they wanted. The debates, which are meant to provide the public with the candidate's policies and viewpoints on major issues so the public can make an informed decision, became a forum for the candidates to yell at and insult each other while vaguely touching on current events.

We need the Fairness Doctrine more than ever

The lawmakers who passed the Fairness Doctrine in 1949 were prescient individuals. Before television even took off they saw the power it had to dictate to the public rather than informing the public. Today, the media has the power that they were concerned about. They have nearly absolute power over public opinion. Most people live within a media bubble where they are only hearing the information they want to hear and they are having that information corroborated by other media. This is possible because the media is not required to provide both sides of the story. They can tell the story however they want, and more importantly they can tell the story in a way the viewers want to hear it. In fact, they are incentivized to tell the story the way people want to hear it because the media is funded by advertisers and they can't risk losing viewers. 

It's time to hold the media accountable for telling the truth, not what viewers want to hear. #Government