Issue: Freedom to Listen

The First Amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It is not possible to have Freedom of Speech if the right of people to listen to that speech is abridged. Today, a right that most take for granted—our freedom to listen to the radio or TV broadcaster of their choice or even programs on the Internet—is in jeopardy. Liberals in all branches of government are calling for so-called “fairness” in media, particularly AM radio. Of course, they claim the right to define what is “fair,” and their goal is to force privately owned radio stations to replace conservative speech with liberal speech.

In early 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assaulted our freedom to listen by proposing the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” (CIN) by which government researchers would invade America’s newsrooms and grill reporters and editors as to why and how they chose what to report.   It was halted, for now, by widespread public outrage.

This outrageous attempt to censor information that Americans are allowed to receive followed the FCC’s 2012 Net Neutrality guidelines to restrict and control the Internet, despite never receiving authority from Congress to do so, and in defiance of a federal court ruling.

In 2009–2010, the FCC similarly launched an effort to revive the “Fairness Doctrine,” which it was forced to abandon in 1987 as an insidious attempt by the federal government to control what Americans get to see and hear.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that the ban on independent political expenditures by corporations violated the First Amendment’s right to freedom of expression and speech.  This important decision helped secure Americans’ freedom to listen by allowing more privately purchased political advertising on broadcast media.

Our freedom to listen is under an unrelenting threat from the FCC, which threatens to regulate the conservative point of view out of business under the guise of “localism,” “viewpoint discrimination,” “community monitoring boards,” “media ownership diversity” and reduced or overly restrictive terms to renew broadcast licenses for radio and TV stations.

The ACRU urges every lawmaker to take these threats to our freedom to listen seriously. The FCC and other overreaching agencies need to be kept away from America’s microphones and newsrooms, and should never be allowed to dictate what Americans are allowed to read, hear and see, based on politicized determinations by liberal government appointees about what is “fair” or ”balanced.”

Freedom to Listen “ACRU Commentary”

Freedom to Listen “In the Courts”