Issue: Freedom to Listen

It is not possible to have Freedom of Speech if the right of people to listen to that speech is abridged.But, today a right that most take for granted—the freedom to listen to the radio broadcaster of their choice—is in jeopardy. Liberals in all branches of government favor more “fairness” in broadcast media, particularly AM radio, and they are threatening to interfere. A frontal attack à la the old “Fairness Doctrine” is unlikely. Instead, there will be efforts to use the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate conservative talk radio out of business under the guise of “localism,” “viewpoint discrimination,” community monitoring boards, “media ownership diversity” and reduced terms for licenses. The ACRU urges every lawmaker—city council members, state legislators and members of Congress—to take the Freedom to Listen Pledge. And we invite every talk radio host to join our effort to Save Radio Free America.

ACRU Court Activity

No current cases.

News & Commentary

05/22/14: America's Budding Tyrants

This column by ACRU Policy Board Member and Professor of Economics Dr. Walter E. Williams was published May 21, 2014 on From the Nazis to the Stalinists, tyrants have always started out supporting free speech, and why is easy...

03/28/12: Our Constitutional Freedom to Listen

ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara and former ACRU intern and researcher Carlos Ramirez explain in a Liberty Law Review article why the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech is violated if the corollary freedom to listen is not enforced....

02/17/11: In Case of Emergency, Break the Constitution

This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published February 11, 2011 on The Washington Times website. Did you know that the nation soon will undergo a test that will determine how effectively the president of the United States...

04/22/09: Peter Ferrara: Will Obama Seize the Radio Stations Next?

When President Obama announced his new budget a few weeks ago involving record spending, tax increases, deficits and debt, he did so with soaring rhetoric about spending cuts (non-existent), tax cuts for 95% of workers (misleading), and cutting the deficit in half in 5 years (good luck). This misdirection rhetoric is now a common Obama pattern.

04/17/09: John Armor: The Myth of Public Airways

People who don't know much about freedom of the press (or don't care much about it) often say that the government has a right to regulate the content of broadcast media because "the public owns the airways." If that were true, the government would have a right to censor your personal phone calls and e-mails.

04/ 5/09: Peter Ferrara: Rush's fans have rights, too

While President Obama's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to attack conservative talk radio with some version of the Fairness Doctrine, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in open court last week may have thrown a bombshell into those plans.

04/ 1/09: Ken Klukowski: Government Claims Power to Ban Books and Speech

On Mar. 24, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Citizens United v. FEC, the latest installment in an ongoing series of challenges to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), better known as McCain-Feingold. This case has far-reaching implications for the future of campaign activities, and draws an important line between the right of citizens to speak out and the power of government to imprison them if they do.

03/10/09: Congressman Pence Signs "Freedom to Listen" Pledge

Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) became an inaugural signer of the American Civil Rights Union's "Freedom to Listen" pledge on Monday, vowing to protect the First Amendment by standing against "any and all efforts to censor or in any way restrict the people's freedom to listen to the unfettered airing of political views of their choice on broadcast media or the Internet." The pledge is designed to unify support against efforts to restrict Americans' constitutional freedom to listen.

03/ 9/09: Jan LaRue: The Heckler in Chief and Venezuela's Media Mauler

What do President Barack Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have in common? Besides their socialist economic policies, they don't abide media critics well. The Obama White House has Rush Limbaugh, king of talk radio, in its crosshairs. When a president of the United States targets one media personality for criticism, those who live and breathe by the First Amendment should be aware they're on life-support. The executive branch can pull their plug via the FCC, which decides who gets or keeps a broadcast license.

02/19/09: Robert Knight: Listen Up, While You Still Can

Bill Clinton says America needs the Fairness Doctrine because conservative talk radio is sounding "a blatant drumbeat" against the stimulus package. He complained on a liberal talk show on Feb. 12 that "there has always been a lot of big money to support the right-wing talk shows."

01/28/09: Peter Ferrara: The Constitutional Right to Listen

We usually think of freedom of speech as involving the right of speakers to speak, whether through public addresses, in writing, or over radio and television airwaves. But the courts have recognized an additional dimension to First Amendment free speech rights: the right to listen and watch. This right takes center stage in a current challenge to the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law and could play a role in the debate about the Fairness Doctrine.

12/ 5/08: Horace Cooper: Freedom to Speak

It should be a well settled idea that in a democracy, freedom of speech and debate are crucial bulwarks of liberty. Unfortunately, that is not a notion widely held today by the self-appointed political censors of the 21st century; especially those who deplore the rightward tilt of talk radio. These critics of talk radio disregard the overwhelming left-wing viewpoint dominance in newspapers and television and zealously seek to impose speech limits until that same dominance is brought to bear on talk radio. It is laughable that talk radio's political speech should require government control and it is tragic that if the critics succeed they will threaten one of the most precious freedoms that our nation was founded upon and that the Constitution protects -- freedom of expression.

07/29/08: John Armor: Anybody Remember the Red Lion Case?

Led by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a phalanx of Democrats and liberal pressure groups are urging a return to "The Fairness Doctrine." What could be more American than "fairness"?

07/17/08: Ken Blackwell: The Gathering Threat to Freedom

House Speaker Pelosi is hinting at reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, and many of her liberal colleagues in Congress are doing the same in both chambers. Alleging the press isnt balanced, they say government should be making sure all viewpoints meaning the lefts are fairly represented. I agree the press isnt balanced, but Mrs. Pelosi has it backward; liberalism dominates the press, including the three major networks and most major newspapers.

10/16/07: John Armor: Press has enough protection; Reporters who choose to be martyrs don't warrant a federal law.

All Americans should be equally subject to law. Not even the president has a "right" to evade the law. Chief Justice John Marshall established this principle when he required President Thomas Jefferson to give evidence in Aaron Burr's treason trial. That concept was later applied to presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

More Information

03/11/09: Law Review: The Fairness Doctrine: A Solution in Search of a Problem, by Adrian Cronauer

"This Article examines the history of the Fairness Doctrine and the more common arguments offered in support of it. If the Fairness Doctrine, as interpreted by the Commission, upheld by the courts, and encouraged by Congress(note 1) were to be...

03/24/08: Accuracy in Media Special Report: Left-Wing Censorship Campaign Targets Conservative Media, by Cliff Kinkaid

"In his classic work about Washington double-standards that benefit the national Democratic Party, It Didn't Start With Watergate, Victor Lasky described how Democratic administrations were guilty of some of the same things that forced the resignation of Republican President Richard...

06/24/07: The 'Study' on Conservative Talk Radio

The Center for American Progress is a liberal organization in its pedigree and staff. It has now released a "study" on the imbalance between conservative and "progressive" content on talk radio. It wants the government to compel a "balance" between...

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