Tag Archives: digital divide

On the fairness doctrine and Christian radio

The argument used by many Christian broadcasters against it indeed is a compelling one. Ie, on controversial topics, time must be granted for opposing views… which makes a lot of sense, until one adds in the listener supported aspect. Ie as soon as focus on the family radio ends up having to allow for a program on prochoice views, their support would drop in a huge fashion. Thus, Christian broadccaster’s feelings of paranoia are very much justifiable.

Its not necessarily a theological issue as much as it is a business one. Ie, one can cover all views and engage those one does not theologically agree with… but mere mention of some topics will set off the watchdogs, and with them, funding likely goes out the window. Imagine talking about or reading Ezekiel 23 on Christian radio…. a guaranteed watchdog hit, to say nothing of the FCC fines (for reference Ezekial 23 is NSFW). I’m not sure its a good thing to censor scripture based upon watchdog paranoia leading to funding, although in this extreme case the FCC has the final call.

Ideally, Christian radio should not be just all business and money. It is a ministry after all, but in addition, as a user and licensee of the public airwaves, there is an issue of serving the public, and that is apart from business issues and market demand. Ie, should only the view points of those with tons of cash available be the only ones present on the public airwaves? What if money equates to ear tickling? Or what if errant theology is being propagated, especially so in small markets with only 1 player. Thus, perhaps there is some redeeming value in the fairness doctrine, as it forces many issues out in the open, not just single sided watchdog constrained ones.

Fortunately in our area, its not too bad. Like most Christian radio stations, denominational views outside of the owners own seem a bit lacking which is not so great. In addition, some programs tend to lean towards a theology of glory and are US evangelical focused. Again, not the optimum, but at least Christologically they seem pretty solid. Sadly, there is a distant station which is owned by some type of empire, a whole chain of stations, which airs not only narrow theological views with an emphasis on some far out political positions, but sadly has exceedingly scary emphasis on works based soteriology to boot.  Who knows how many stumbling blocks they put on the air. That is very sad indeed… and again, perhaps the fairness doctrine
just might be beneficial to the kingdom, in that it could result in upsetting the apple cart, that they would be forced to get their act together.

However, there is the issue of what is controversial… and the FCC will see political topics as controversial, but not theological ones. The differences between Rome, Calvin, Arminus, and Luther or lordship soteriology vs free grace, or works righteousness vs justification by faith, sacrements vs ordinances, would not be addressed by the fairness doctrine… despite that in theological circles, such issues are very controversial. Perhaps the issue, is that the average Joe in todays society is unaware of the controversies, or has chosen not to study, not sure. 125 years ago… when churches split over predestination issues, obviously folks had to put in some serious study and questioning. Today, it seems likely few folks could expound on the differences, or maybe folks just choose not to engage, not sure, but things sure have changed.

Just as the average Joes theological views appear to have faded over time. it may well be the fairness doctrine was a good solution for years ago, but not so much today, especially in the listener supported domain. We do have internet radio, satellite radio, podcasting ect, where media channels are for the most part unlimited. Yet, over the air serves a huge segment of the population, many of whom may be limited by the digital divide. Perhaps rather than looking at content, greater regulation as to geographic license ownership may be a solution to provide for some level of diversity. Ie, a limit on the number of stations owned in a market area, and perhaps going so far as to preclude conglomerate ownership in a market with only a single provider. Not sure…

Errant theology propagated over the public airwaves is not cool, yet govt approval of theology puts a huge dent in the constitution, and is not cool either. There has to be a better way… just not sure what it is, especially in light of the digital divide. I sort of think greater diversity in ownership and smaller stations are likely the solution, much more so than the fairness doctrine. That way, even if the most errant theology was broadcast, it is quite likely another broadcaster in the same market has it right, and the local church can step up to the plate to as well.