Brief Fact Summary. A radio station was forced to provide free airtime to a book author whose character was attacked on the air.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Requiring broadcasters to provide rebuttal time for personal attacks is constitutional.
Section 315 applies only to campaign appearances by candidates, and not by family, friends, campaign managers, or other supporters.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Can the government require the press to provide equal rebuttal time to victims of personal attacks made during prior broadcasts or publications?
Held. Yes. It is constitutional to obligate radios’ licensees to provide time and attention to matters of public concern. The Fairness Doctrine simply enforces the obligation to the community that is owed by one who is granted a license for a limited publicly beneficial property.
Discussion. Broadcast frequencies are limited commodities that require government regulation to control. Because of the limited space, licenses were not issued to all who requested one. Therefore, those who are licensed have a greater duty to give time to all viewpoints equally and not censor what is unpopular. The most important consideration is the right of listeners to be informed and exposed to the “marketplace of ideas.”