The Supreme Court on Freedom of the Press: Decisions and Dissents

By William A. Hachten | Go to book overview

Chapter Fourteen
GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF BUSINESS ASPECTS OF THE PRESS

DURING the New Deal era the nation's daily newspapers, like other businesses, came under increasing regulation because of the enactment of such laws as the National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA), the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (Wage and Hour Act).

To many editors and publishers it seemed that when applied to the press this legislation violated the First Amendment. The pertinent constitutional question was fairly clear: At what point, if any, does government regulation of business actually abridge freedom of the press? Should newspapers be exempt from government restrictions affecting their business activities? These issues have been resolved in several important Supreme Court decisions.

While generous in applying First Amendment protection to the activities of individuals and minority groups, the Court has shown somewhat less latitude in applying that protection to the activities of the corporate complex that the mass media have become. The two major decisions involving the Associated Press illustrate this. It may reflect a feeling of some judges and press critics that the growing tendency towards "bigness, fewness, and likemindedness" in the news media has been itself a deterrent to the free expression of the widest variety of views, ideas, and tastes.

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