With the support of President Reagan, the broadcasting industry launched an all-out campaign today to persuade Congress to repeal major programming restrictions on television and radio stations.
At the start of the National Association of Broadcasters' annual convention here, the association's president, Vincent T. Wasilewski, called on Congress to treat broadcasting stations like newspapers by giving them complete freedom to air the programs they wish without having to comply with the Fairness Doctrine.
"Broadcasters must have the freedom to seek out and report information without governmental oversight which could easily become government censure," Wasilewski said in a keynote speech at the convention, whose theme this year is "Full First Amendment Freedom for Broadcasters."
Reagan last week wrote to the NAB that "it is esential to extend to electronic journalism the same rights that newspapers and magazines enjoy." Copies of the president's letter were enlarged into three-by-five-foot posters and prominently displayed on the convention floor.
"While I will not always agree with what is said, I, as a former broadcaster, am acutely aware of the great value of journalistic freedom," Reagan said.
Further support is expected later this week when Federal Communicatons Commission Chairman Mark S. Fowler and Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, speak to the NAB.
Unlike newspapers, which have no restrictions on what they print except for libel laws, broadcasters are required to seek out controversial issues and air contrasting views on all sides. Additionally, the Fairness Doctrine requires stations to provide time for opposing views on controversial matters aired in advertisements, editorials and a host of other formats. Political broadcasting rules also require station owners to give candidates for the same political office equal opportunity to broadcast their views.
With the sharp increase in the number of broadcasting outlets, Wasilewski said, "There's no need for continued regulation of a proven, trusted commodity."
Broadcasters must urge Congress "to adopt as provocative and daring a philosophy as is embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution which simply states, 'Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech or of the press,' " Wasilewski concluded.