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

By William A. Hachten | Go to book overview

Chapter Thirteen
FREEDOM OF BROADCASTING

THE BROADCASTING of news and public information on radio and television has become a major means of informing the American people about their government and the world. Television particularly has had a dramatic impact on journalism as well as politics. Unquestionably, more Americans today get more of their news first from television than from any other source. Authorities agree, however, that the broadcasting media really complement rather than displace printed news.

Since a portion of its programming is devoted to news, ideas, and public information, broadcasting is entitled to the protection of the First Amendment. The basic federal law that regulates U.S. broadcasters--the Communications Act of 1934--specifically states in Sec. 326:

Nothing in this Act shall be understood or construed to give the Federal Communications Commission the power of censorship over the radio communications or signals transmitted by any radio station, and no regulation or condition shall be promulgated or fixed by the Commission which shall interfere with the right of free speech by means of radio communication.

The problem of implementing this protection has concerned the Supreme Court, the Congress, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)--the body set up by Congress to regulate broadcasting through the Communications Act.

For a number of technical reasons, broadcasting, of course,

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