Broadcast Speech Limitation from Left and Right

We libertarians are often argue that both the left and the right are equally guilty of stepping on key freedoms.  We currently have an excellent example of that in the case of freedom of speech in broadcast media (radio and TV).

From the RightNew initiatives to crack down on "bad language" and sexual content in broadcast media, most famously driving Howard Stern to satellite.

From the Left:  While bent out of shape about the right's crackdown on immoral speech, the left turns around and attempts a crackdown, via renewal of the Fairness Doctrine, on political speech.  See hapless John Kerry decrying loss of the Fairness Doctrine here, and a more coherent history here.

Can't we just agree to allow everyone free speech and turn off what we don't want to hear?


  1. MORSteve:

    So, is Kerry saying that political speech is the equivalent of profane pornography?
    Just askin'

  2. Ben DoubleCrossed:

    Outrageous Result of Federal Campaign Law
    By Ben DoubleCrossed

    While the First Amendment of the United States Constitution does in fact guarantee an unrestricted, free press to foreign citizens and corporations operating newspapers in these United States, it [ does not ] guarantee the same rights to United States Citizens or political organizations including the Democrat and Republican parties!

    The outrageous paragraph above accurately describes the result of campaign regulations passed by the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, signed into law by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court.

    The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits any foreign national from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. - And foreign corporations are considered foreign nationals -

    Nonetheless, foreign owned newspapers have more rights than US citizens because Congress does not want to debate 1st Amendment questions raised by the Press Exemption.

    2 USC 431 (9) (B) The term "expenditure" does not include -
    (i) any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed
    through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper,
    magazine, or other periodical publication, unless such facilities
    are owned or controlled by any political party, political
    committee, or candidate;

    Members of Congress have been aware of this ‘oversight’ for seven years and chose not to discuss it while deliberating the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act:

    "Regarding the issue of foreign ownership of media, I am currently researching this issue.
    I appreciate your concerns that while the FEC regulates contributions and expenditures of American citizens, newspapers owned by foreign individuals or corporations are not subject to such regulation. The problem is in limiting the freedom of speech of these newspapers. Any type of regulation of editorial comment would be unconstitutional." From Congresswoman Ann Northup's letter to her constituent, Richard Lewis, dated June 11, 1997

    Thank you for your calls regarding foreign-owned media. I appreciate having the opportunity to address your concerns.

    As Juliane Carter of my staff discussed with you, the Congressional Research Service is currently gathering research on this topic for me. I look forward to seeing what information they provide on the number of broadcast and print journalism organizations that are owned or operated by international companies. Excerpt from Congresswoman Ann Northup's July 10, 1997 letter to her constituent Richard Lewis.

    "Regarding print media, I understand your concern about foreign ownership. Of the seven largest newspaper companies, two -- Thomson Newspapers (circulation 1.33 million, 65 dailies) and Hollinger International (circulation 1.28 million, 105 dailies) -- are Canadian. However, several questions arise as to how to implement any type of restriction. While broadcasters are regulated by the FCC, newspapers do not have any type of regulating agency. Further, requiring any type of regulation of the print media would draw serious constitutional problems.

    However, I agree with you that media plays in incredibly important and powerful role in our society. As we discussed on the radio the other night, campaign finance reform proposals that limit the ability of candidates to get their message out merely empower the control of the editorial boards. I agree with you that foreign ownership of newspapers could be very dangerous. One wonders what the effect would be if China bought most of the major newspapers in this country." From Congresswoman Ann Northup's letter to her constituent, Richard Lewis, dated September 4, 1997

    "Mr. Richard Lewis, a constituent from Kentucky's Third District, has grave concerns about foreign ownership of media.

    He raises the issue that while the media has brought campaign finance reform to the forefront of public awareness, such proposals limit the ability of law-abiding citizens to get out a message. Meanwhile, two of the seven largest newspaper companies in the United States are owned by foreign investors. The ability of these foreign owners to influence elections through editorial pages will be strengthened by increased limits on campaign finance." Excerpt from Congresswoman Northup's September 4, 1997 letter to the Chairman William Thomas (Committee on House Oversight), on behalf of her constituent, Richard Lewis

    From Congresswoman Northup's September 4, 1997 letter to Chairman Charles Canady (House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution), on behalf of her constituent, Richard Lewis Same letter as above.

    "Your inquiry about foreign ownership of the media and its influence over federal elections was forwarded to me. As Chairman of the House Committee which oversees federal elections, I thank you for your concerns.

    The points you raise are interesting. Be assured that as the Congress considers the issue of campaign finance reform or reviews the election process as a whole I will keep your questions in mind. Once again, I appreciate and thank you for your desire of the preservation of free and unfettered elections." Excerpt from Chairman William M. Thomas letter to Richard Lewis, dated September 9, 1997

    Why isn't the existing prohibition being enforced or why wasn't the following language added to existing exclusions in the Press Exemption during the debate over BCRA:

    unless such facilities
    are owned or controlled by any political party, political
    committee, or candidate, or foreign national or foreign corporation;


    In the U.S., laws that limit media consolidation could be considered 'trade violations.' policies that promote media localism, diversity, and pluralism could be classified as 'barriers to trade.' Multinational corporations could seek cash 'compensation' - paid for by taxpayer dollars - if tribunals of trade lawyers found our government's public interest media policies to be 'unduly burdensome' to competition.

    It is up to the American People? Are you willing to sacrifice 1st Amendment rights to globalization? If so, the rest of the Bill of Rights and Constitutional government will shortly follow!

    The solution is simple: Repeal the Federal Election Campaign Act and BCRA. The Bill of Rights granted freedom of speech, press and assembly to people and not corporations.