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Access to the Media Versus Access to Audiences: The Distinction and its Implications for Media Regulation and Policy
Unformatted Document Text:  11 adequate response is in the same forum since it is most likely to reach the same audience.” 26 Thus, implicit in Barron’s medium-specific approach is the idea that the extent to which different media have access to different audiences must be considered when implementing access rights. However, the explicit access right being argued is that of a right of access to the media, rather than the right of access to audiences, and the justification is one of collective, rather than individual, benefit. Perhaps more significant than this shift in terminology is the accompanying shift in underlying First Amendment rationales. Specifically, unlike the right of access to audiences described above, the right of access to the media has not been premised primarily upon preserving and promoting the liberties and autonomy of the individual speaker. Instead, a speaker’s right of access to the media has been premised primarily upon the benefits that accrue to the public (i.e., the audience) from having access to a diversity of sources of information. Thus, while the right of access to an audience, as it has developed in non-mediated communication contexts, is firmly based upon the traditional “individualist” interpretation of the First Amendment, the right of access to the media is not. Instead, the right of access to the media is primarily premised upon the rights, needs, and interests of the collective citizenry. Such a justification also is grounded in First Amendment theory. There is a long line of legal philosophy and scholarship articulating an interpretation of the First Amendment that places the speech needs of the collective citizenry ahead of the needs of the individual speaker. 27 Those theories of the First Amendment that emphasize free speech’s contribution to the spread of knowledge, or to the effective functioning of the democratic process, or to the protection of the citizenry from abuses of governmental power, all have at their core a more “collectivist” interpretation of the First Amendment. 28 25 Id. at 1651. 26 Id. at 1653. 27 See, for example, Owen Fiss, Free Speech and Social Structure, 71 I OWA L. R EV . 1405 (1986); T HE I RONY OF F REE S PEECH (1996); Alexander Meiklejohn, F REE S PEECH AND ITS R ELATION TO S ELF -G OVERNMENT (1972). 28 Philip M. Napoli, F OUNDATIONS OF C OMMUNICATIONS P OLICY : P RINCIPLES AND P ROCESS IN THE R EGULATION OF E LECTRONIC M EDIA (2001).

Authors: Napoli, Philip.
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11
adequate response is in the same forum since it is most likely to reach the same audience.”
26
Thus,
implicit in Barron’s medium-specific approach is the idea that the extent to which different media have
access to different audiences must be considered when implementing access rights. However, the explicit
access right being argued is that of a right of access to the media, rather than the right of access to
audiences, and the justification is one of collective, rather than individual, benefit.
Perhaps more significant than this shift in terminology is the accompanying shift in underlying
First Amendment rationales. Specifically, unlike the right of access to audiences described above, the
right of access to the media has not been premised primarily upon preserving and promoting the liberties
and autonomy of the individual speaker. Instead, a speaker’s right of access to the media has been
premised primarily upon the benefits that accrue to the public (i.e., the audience) from having access to a
diversity of sources of information. Thus, while the right of access to an audience, as it has developed in
non-mediated communication contexts, is firmly based upon the traditional “individualist” interpretation
of the First Amendment, the right of access to the media is not. Instead, the right of access to the media is
primarily premised upon the rights, needs, and interests of the collective citizenry. Such a justification
also is grounded in First Amendment theory. There is a long line of legal philosophy and scholarship
articulating an interpretation of the First Amendment that places the speech needs of the collective
citizenry ahead of the needs of the individual speaker.
27
Those theories of the First Amendment that
emphasize free speech’s contribution to the spread of knowledge, or to the effective functioning of the
democratic process, or to the protection of the citizenry from abuses of governmental power, all have at
their core a more “collectivist” interpretation of the First Amendment.
28
25
Id. at 1651.
26
Id. at 1653.
27
See, for example, Owen Fiss, Free Speech and Social Structure, 71 I
OWA
L. R
EV
. 1405 (1986); T
HE
I
RONY OF
F
REE
S
PEECH
(1996); Alexander Meiklejohn, F
REE
S
PEECH AND ITS
R
ELATION TO
S
ELF
-G
OVERNMENT
(1972).
28
Philip M. Napoli, F
OUNDATIONS OF
C
OMMUNICATIONS
P
OLICY
: P
RINCIPLES AND
P
ROCESS IN THE
R
EGULATION OF
E
LECTRONIC
M
EDIA
(2001).


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