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Fairness Doctrine Could Apply To The Web, FCC Commissioner Warns

09/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

There's a huge concern among conservative talk radio hosts that reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine would all-but destroy the industry due to equal time constraints. But speech limits might not stop at radio. They could even be extended to include the Internet and "government dictating content policy."

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell raised that as a possibility after talking with bloggers at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. McDowell spoke about a recent FCC vote to bar Comcast from engaging in certain Internet practices - expanding the federal agency's oversight of Internet networks.

The commissioner, a 2006 President Bush appointee, told the Business & Media Institute the Fairness Doctrine could be intertwined with the net neutrality battle. The result might end with the government regulating content on the Web, he warned. McDowell, who was against reprimanding Comcast, said the net neutrality effort could win the support of "a few isolated conservatives" who may not fully realize the long-term effects of government regulation.

"I think the fear is that somehow large corporations will censor their content, their points of view, right," McDowell said. "I think the bigger concern for them should be if you have government dictating content policy, which by the way would have a big First Amendment problem."

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