Policing the airwaves

The opinion-page column ``Static - and unfairness - at the FCC,'' Dec. 3, on the need to reinstitute the ``fairness doctrine'' in broadcasting, confuses separate issues: auctioning the airwaves and policing their use. The article warns that, without the fairness doctrine, Congress may decide to impose spectrum rental fees on broadcasters for the privilege of using the airwaves. Yet fees are unlikely to affect the ``fairness'' of programming; they would serve the different, although highly valuable, purpose of reducing the problem of airwave scarcity.

As the column notes, the spectrum is increasingly limited by the demands of new broadcasters as well as emerging communications technologies. Congress thus needs to consider the potential benefits of using fees to allocate the spectrum, irrespective of what happens to the fairness doctrine or other efforts to regulate the spectrum. Molly K. Macauley Research Fellow Resources for the Future Washington

This column does not even mention the chilling effect that the fairness doctrine has had on the broadcast media for 38 years. Broadcasters would rather avoid controversial public issues than risk being forced to give air time to a party complaining of unfair treatment. The Federal Communications Commission abolished the fairness doctrine in hopes of fostering a more open debate on public issues; the fairness doctrine limits such debate.

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In this age of ever-multiplying electronic media, the commission has recognized that it is no longer feasible to try to regulate some sort of ``fairness.'' The First Amendment was designed to ensure a free press, not a fair press. Michael McClellan Iowa Western Council Bluffs, Iowa Community College

Soviet responsibility Regarding the fine series ``Perestroika: The Gorbachev revolution,'' Dec. 2-4: The Soviet leadership for generations has taught its people to be children - to entrust their lives, jobs, and protection to the state. The Soviet citizens have been taught that they do not have the right, might, or ability to take care of their own destinies.

Perestroika demands that the Soviet population live as adults, risking loss of jobs and taking responsibility for themselves and their productivity.

Can such a goal be accomplished in the stated three years after so many generations of training and education in the opposite direction?

One thing is certain: Once the lesson of adulthood is learned, there can be no return to the blind faith of childhood - unless it be by violent purges such as those of the Stalinist years. Pamela J. Wylie Fullerton, Calif.

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