Radio broadcasting, particularly religious broadcasting, has from time to time come under attack from one organization or another. Not so long ago the National Council of Churches made an attempt to gain control of religious broadcasting by asking for the right to approve all religious programs to be aired. Any program not approved by this liberal church body would then be kept from the air waves.
Now the government is making a determined effort to step into this field. The Federal Communications Commission is assigned to watch over all broadcasting, and has recently put on its books what it calls its “Fairness Doctrine.” This “doctrine” is supposed to prevent misuse of broadcasting in one way or another. But recently the whole thing has been applied in a very extensive way to all manner of controversial programs. The following was sent to all radio stations:
Several recent incidents suggest the desirability of calling the attention of broadcast licensees to the necessity for observance of the fairness doctrine stated by the Commission in its opinion of July 1, 1949 in Docket No. 8516. The Commission adheres to the views expressed in that opinion and continues to apply that policy namely that the licensee has an affirmative obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints on any controversial issue which he chooses to cover.
The Commission has undertaken a study to consider what actions, perhaps in the form of a primer or rules, might be appropriate better to define certain of the licensee’s responsibilities in this area. Without undertaking at the present time to specify all, or the most important, applications of the policy, it is appropriate to call attention to the Commission’s view of its application in three currently important situations.
(a) When a controversial program involves a personal attack upon an individual or organization, the licensee must transmit the text of the broadcast to the person or group attacked, wherever located, either prior to or at the time of the broadcast, with a specific off of his station’s facilities for an adequate response.
(b) When a licensee permits the use of his facilities by a commentator or any person other than a candidate to take a partisan position on the issues involved in a contest for political office or to attack one candidate or support another by direct or indirect identification, he must immediately send a transcript of the pertinent continuity in each such program to each candidate concerned and offer a comparable opportunity for an appropriate spokesman to answer the broadcast.
(c) When a licensee permits the use of his facilities for the presentation of views regarding an issue of current importance such as racial segregation, integration, or discrimination, or any other issue of public importance, he must offer spokesman for other responsible groups within the community similar opportunities for the expression of the contrasting viewpoints of their respective groups. In particular, the views of the leaders of the Negro and other community groups as to the issue of racial segregation, integration, or discrimination, and of the leaders of appropriate groups in the community as to other issues of public importance, must obviously be considered and reflected, in order to insure that fairness is achieved with respect to programming dealing with such controversial issues.
In determining compliance with the fairness doctrine the Commission looks to substance rather than to label or form. It is immaterial whether a particular program or viewpoint is presented under the label of “Americanism,” “anti-communism” or states’ rights, or whether it is a paid announcement, official speech, editorial or religious broadcast. Regardless of label or form, if one viewpoint of a controversial issue of public importance is presented, the licensee is obligated to make a reasonable effort to present the other opposing viewpoint or viewpoints.
The Commission does not seek to prevent the expression of any viewpoint by any licensee on any issue. It does seek to prevent the suppression of other contrasting viewpoints by any licensee on any issue when licensed broadcast facilities have been used for the presentation of one view of the issue. This is required by the public interest standard of the law.
Recent issues of the Christian Beacon (weekly newspaper edited by Dr. Carl McIntyre and deeply devoted to the “Twentieth Century Reformation Hour”—McIntyre’s radio broadcast) have had much to say about this new ruling inasmuch as the editor is convinced that it is an effort to keep his program from the air. McIntyre is currently broadcasting over better than 500 radio stations, and his broadcasts are well-known for their attacks upon socialism and communism in government, upon the World Council of Churches, and upon the Roman Catholic Church. McIntyre is deeply distressed because it is next to impossible to fulfill the requirements of the law; and the alternative is that radio broadcasting must be discontinued. Besides, some stations already have refused to carry his program because they are afraid of trouble with the FCC inasmuch as they cannot possibly meet the requirements of this “fairness doctrine” law.
Undoubtedly the law has broader implications than McIntyre’s program. In fact this precisely shows the danger of it. It can be applied according to the whims of government officials. It can be used to prevent the airing of any views that the administration in power does not happen to approve of. It can be applied to silence any attack on governmental programs while permitting programs that support that government’s position. The result is, as McIntyre rightly insists, that the free exercise of religion and of speech is in jeopardy. The whole thing sounds like a very clever attempt to gain control over all communications media in the country so that only what the government wants people to hear will be broadcasted.
If it chooses, this new doctrine can easily be applied to our own radio broadcast—”The Reformed Witness Hour”; for it is easy to say that the distinctive emphasis of God’s absolute sovereignty constitutes a controversial subject and amounts to an attack upon the false religion of our day. And, if we need to supply those who are supposedly under attack with a copy of the message; and, if the station that airs our program must give equal time to anyone attacked free of charge, it stands to reason that no station will want our program any longer.
Significantly, the National Council of Churches supports this law.
But the Antichrist that shall soon come needs thought control to accomplish his purpose.
Millions of words have been spoken and written since our president was killed by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas, Texas November 22. And people who have desired to hear or read the latest news have undoubtedly wearied of the long and repetitious eulogies that filled our homes all day long. Surfeited with words, a few more comments may seem unnecessary.
Yet it remains for the Church of Christ to put these events into their proper perspective; for we believe that God does all things for the sake of His Church. And this event also somewhat touches upon our life—and our salvation.
For one thing, the event was frightening and tragic be cause it took from us our magistrate whom God had placed over us. We owed him the honor and respect that is required of all citizens to all in authority, for God had put him in the president’s office. We did not always do this. But, whether we happened to like or dislike the man; whether we agreed or disagreed with his policies; he was a God-appointed ruler to whom we owed obedience. That he is taken away is very evil. And it is part of the entire climate of our day where there is no respect any more for authority of any kind. Such a deed can be performed only in a world where the principles of the fifth commandment are hated. The nation must shoulder its part of the blame. And the people of God must see that, to the extent they have fallen under the influence of these rebellious times, they contributed to the evil.
Yet, God took him away. It was through the evil of a wicked man. But God sovereignly puts rulers upon their thrones and casts them down according to His own purpose. And we can but wonder how such a staggering event—staggering in its influence upon the whole course of history in the world—fits into the eternal purpose of Almighty God. History will soon enough show us; but it seems as if this end of the president will bring the world that much closer to the day of a one-world kingdom. Never before has the whole world been so closely united in one massive outpouring of feeling as the world was a few weeks ago at the death of John Kennedy. Already news commentators and high-public officials are urging men to put aside their differences to submerge their hatreds that lead to such dreadful events in a common brotherhood, to lay- down their divisive causes, their bigotry, their narrow-mindedness; and to stand together for the principles for which our fallen president has stood. I recall one news commentator urging all the people to begin now to worship together in the same churches, to pray together to the same God, to abandon all political opinions and religious scruples that divide us. We must be one they say, or it will happen again.
What was particularly offensive about it all was the sudden pious mask which America and the world put on. Everybody (whether or not a few moments before the news they had been cursing God) suddenly felt the need to pray, to run to Church, to join with other churches in memorial services and national days of mourning, to remember together all the good the president had done for God and for his country. I even heard commentators and news analysts apply passages of Scripture to the President which refer exclusively to Christ. This is blasphemy. And America, once the shock has dissipated, returns again to her evil ways.
But the Roman Catholic Church has gained a tremendous amount of good-will through it all. Never before have they had the opportunity to present their theology to such a large and sympathetic audience. And they made the most of it, particularly trying to be as inoffensive as possible towards Protestants so that the best possible impression would be left with the people. Men of the Reformation were heard to say that perhaps the Reformation was in a great measure a mistake. We have been misinformed, they said. The Roman Catholic Church is not so bad after all. They pray as we do and worship the same God and believe in the same Christ; and even the mass is very impressive.
But Rome still remains the Church which stands immovably fixed in error. She still has not washed from her hands the blood of God’s martyrs. Her mass is yet, as the Catechism says, “an accursed idolatry.” It may no longer be popular to say these things; but they are true nonetheless, and need saying now more than ever.
All this can only aid the efforts of the Vatican Council to bring all Churches together into one. All this can only encourage Protestants to quicken their steps in their hasty flight back to “mother.”
But God rules in heaven. He works in mysterious ways that are entirely beyond our comprehension. He does the unexpected, for we cannot fathom the inscrutable wisdom of Him with whom we have to do. But He is our Maker and Redeemer Who keeps the cause of His people safe forever and makes all things serve their eternal salvation.
Now He points us again to the end of the ages. Let us lift up our heads, for our redemption draweth nigh.