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

By William A. Hachten | Go to book overview

Chapter Fifteen
THE PRESS AND ANTITRUST LAWS

AS BUSINESS INSTITUTIONS operated for profit, units or combinations of the mass media are subject to the antitrust laws designed to discourage monopolies and conspiracies in restraint of trade.

It can be debated whether the American public really wishes to see the antitrust laws enforced as regards the mass media. In television, viewers enjoy the advantages of standardized network television. There are advantages, too, to readers of the single multipurpose omnibus daily newspaper or newspaper combination so characteristic of American cities today.

However, since antitrust legislation seeks to restore competition, it implies the spirit of diversity or the "market place of ideas" which is so basic to our tradition of freedom of the press. In the 1945Associated Press antitrust case, for example, the Supreme Court applied this principle to answer the AP's claim that the First Amendment is violated by extending the Sherman Act to the press. Here we find government acting in an affirmative way to insure freedom of expression by enlarging the "market place" and to guarantee that the "widest possible diversity of views and ideas" is presented.

In the series of cases excerpted here, the Sherman Anti- Trust Act of 1890 is involved in three strikingly different situations--cooperative news gathering associations, advertising rate practices, and public relations firms.

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