Broadcast Freedom Could be Expanded by SCOTUS
As The Right Frequency details in Chapter 5 “Challenge and Harass,” the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine and other broadcast restrictions in the Red Lion case in 1969.
Though the Fairness Doctrine is a relic, the Red Lion ruling was used by district courts and the Ninth Circuit in the case of Minority Television Project v. FCC. The Supreme Court is considering taking this case, and a ruling could wipe away many of the restrictions upheld by Red Lion, which might have been appropriate in 1969, but are irrelevant in today’s media environment.
As the Cato Institute explains:
Minority Television Project is an independent, noncommercial license-holding TV station in San Francisco. Unlike most noncommercial license holders, Minority TV receives no PBS money. Because it’s an over-the-air broadcaster, however, it must comply with the restrictions placed on the licenses by Congress and the FCC, including prohibitions on paid commercials and political ads. Minority TV challenged these restrictions as violating the First Amendment … Applying Red Lion’s lower First Amendment standard, the district court, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and even the en banc Ninth Circuit (11 judges rather than the usual 3) all ruled against Minority TV. On petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court, Minority TV argues that Red Lion’s rationale for reducing broadcasters’ rights is outdated and should be overruled.
To learn more about the Red Lion case, read The Right Frequency.