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In an effort to pre-empt such a repeal, Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings introduced the Fairness in Broadcasting Act in March 1987, which would have fully enshrined the Fairness Doctrine in law.
The Senate was split 55-45 in favor of the Democrats at the time, and the bill passed the Senate by 59-31.
Those who could not were still limited to the broadcast networks.
By 1987, amid growing criticism, Reagan’s FCC came to believe the Fairness Doctrine should be abandoned, because it believed that “the doctrine chilled the speech of broadcasters and inhibited free and open debate on the public airwaves,” as the Congressional Research Service put it.
The vote in Congress was not an attempt to “re-instate” the Fairness Doctrine, it was a pre-emptive effort to fully codify the existing doctrine before the FCC could abolish it later in 1987 (which it duly did.) Likewise, Reagan’s veto did not prevent the re-instatement of the doctrine, it prevented the doctrine from being fully codified.
In August 1987, the FCC put an end to the Fairness Doctrine by a unanimous vote.
Unlike watching broadcast television, viewers had to pay for cable and satellite subscriptions.
Part of the rationale behind the doctrine was the scarcity of television and radio frequencies available, especially in the middle of the 20th century.
The government had a duty to regulate the operation of scarce frequencies, the argument went, and therefore had a right to use the public interest as the main criterion in granting and renewing broadcast licenses.
They did not ensure heterogeneity or a universally open “marketplace of ideas,” though.
Exposure to cable and satellite television was confined to those who could afford to pay for it.