Citizens United Haters, Is This Really What You Want? John Oliver Brexit Segment Forced to Air After Vote

A lot of folks, particularly on the Left, despise the Citizens United decision that said it was unconstitutional to limit third party political speech, particularly prior to an election (even if that speech was made by nasty old corporations).  The case was specifically about whether the government could prevent the airing of a third-party produced and funded documentary about one of the candidates just before an election.  The Supreme Court said that the government could not put in place such limits (ie "Congress shall make no law...") but Britain has no such restrictions so we can see exactly what we would get in such a regime.  Is this what you want?

As Britain gears up to vote in the EU referendum later this week, broadcasters are constantly working to ensure their coverage remains impartial. One such company is Sky, which has this week been forced to delay the latest instalment of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight HBO show. Why? Because it contains a 15-minute diatribe on why the UK should remain part of Europe.

Instead of airing the programme after Game of Thrones on Sky Atlantic on Monday night, like it does usually, Sky has pushed it back until 10:10pm on Thursday, just after the polls close. Social media users are up in arms about the decision, but in reality, Sky appears to be playing everything by the book.

Sky's decision allows it to adhere to Ofcom rules that come into effect during elections and referendums. "Sky have complied with the Ofcom broadcasting restrictions at times of elections and referendums that prohibit us showing this section of the programme at this moment in time. We will be able to show it once the polls close have closed on Thursday," a Sky spokesperson told Engadget.

In March, the regulator warned broadcasters that they'd need to take care when covering May's local elections and the subsequent Brexit vote. Section Five (which focuses on Due Impartiality) and Section Six (covering Elections and Referendums) of Ofcom's Code contain guidelines that are designed stop companies like Sky from influencing the public vote. Satirical content is allowed on UK TV networks during these times, but Oliver's delivery is very much political opinion based on facts, rather than straight humour.

By the way, the fact vs. satire distinction strikes me as particularly bizarre and arbitrary.

When will folks realize that such speech limitations are crafted by politicians to cravenly protect themselves from criticism.  Take that Citizens United decision.  Hillary Clinton has perhaps been most vociferous in her opposition to it, saying that if President she will appoint Supreme Court judges that will overturn it.  But note the specific Citizens United case was about whether a documentary critical of .... Hillary Clinton could be aired.  So Clinton is campaigning that when she takes power, she will change the Constitution so that she personally cannot be criticized.  And the sheeple on the Left nod and cheer as if shielding politicians from accountability is somehow "progressive."



  1. Mike:

    Excellent last paragraph.

  2. herdgadfly:

    Diatribe is exactly the right word but Sky is dead wrong about there being any "facts" contained therein. and the complex financial arrangement is a big problem.

    "How can broke economies lend money to other broke economies who haven't got any money because they can't pay back the monies the broke economy lent to other broke economies and shouldn't have lent to them in the first place because the broke economies can't pay it back?"

  3. Mercury:

    "So Clinton is campaigning that when she takes power, she will change the Constitution so that she personally cannot be criticized."
    You're sounding naive here. The Constitution will never be amended again, just like Congress will never declare war again. We've "evolved" beyond the need for that.

    Behold, Milo Yiannopoulos urging Brexit. I wonder if this Londoner would be so brave if he weren't standing on Alaskan soil...

  4. Q46:

    "... Sky, which has this week been forced to delay..."

    No it was not 'forced' to do anything. It made a voluntary decision based on its interpretation of Ofcom code of practice which deals with balance, not preventing broadcast, that would require Sky to provide some means of presenting the opposing point of view to Oliver's rant.

    Sky is owned by Murdock whose UK newspapers have come out in favour of Brexit, and Sky TV will also be sensitive to annoying a large section of its audience - according to the polls In or Out is neck and neck. So the decision could be attributed to several factors.

  5. joe - dallas:

    Stephens dissent in CU was based on the concept that corporations do not have rights.
    Look at the damage you can do when you extend Stephens rationale to other parts of the Bill of Rights (BOR)

    Corporate/partnership/estate assets can be seized without due process for both legal and illegal activities because they dont have rights.
    Your parents home can be seized by the government after their death without due process because the home is now owned by the Estate, not the individual, and estates dont have rights.

  6. Matthew Slyfield:

    Actually, there is a partial solution.

    Take a subset that is discussed: Italy owes Spain $42B, Spain owes Italy $27B.

    If this is actual government held debt rather than accumulated debt held by multiple banks and other private entities, they could do a debt exchange. Italy writes off the $27B it is owed by Spain in exchange for Spain writing off $27B of the $42B that Italy owes Spain.

    In the end Italy owes Spain $15B and it cost both governments nothing.

  7. markm:

    Even if that's only applied to the 1st Amendment: Most churches are non-profit corporations, just like CU. How else would you organize them? You still have freedom of religion, but only if you hold the church services in your living room.

    OK, let's apply it only to freedom of speech and the press. Soros and the Koch brothers still have these freedoms. The New York Times and MSNBC have it only if some government official certifies them as "the press".