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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:  12 This collectivist interpretation of the First Amendment is central to the Red Lion decision, in which the Court noted that “the people as a whole retain their interest in free speech by radio and their collective right to have the medium function consistently with the ends and purposes of the First Amendment. . . . It is the right of the public to receive suitable access to social, political, esthetic, moral, and other ideas and experiences which is crucial here.” 29 Note in this passage how, in a decision that grants certain speakers (in this case politicians) access to the media, the only articulated First Amendment right is the audience’s right of access to “social, political, esthetic, morel and other ideas and experiences.” 30 Indeed, nowhere in the decision does the Court argue that the politicians who have been granted a right of access to the media have been granted such access on the basis of their individual First Amendment rights. Similarly, in justifying its decision in the CBS case, the Court drew heavily upon its decision in Red Lion, noting again that “It is the right of the public to receive suitable access….” 31 Moreover, the Court noted that the reasonable access provisions make “a significant contribution to freedom of expression by enhancing the ability of candidates to present, and the public to receive, information necessary for the effective operation of the democratic process.” 32 Again, an access right is being granted primarily on behalf of collective benefits (in this case, the effective operation of the democratic process), not on behalf of preserving and promoting the liberties and autonomy of the individual speaker. Even advocates of a speaker’s right of access to the media have relied upon this same interpretive stance. Consider, for instance, that, in his initial articulation of a right of access to the media, Barron justifies this access right on the grounds of producing a better-informed citizenry and in terms of 29 Supra, note 19 at 390. 30 Id. 31 Supra, not 20 at 728 (citations omitted). 32 Id. at 729.

Authors: Napoli, Philip.
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12
This collectivist interpretation of the First Amendment is central to the Red Lion decision, in
which the Court noted that “the people as a whole retain their interest in free speech by radio and their
collective right to have the medium function consistently with the ends and purposes of the First
Amendment. . . . It is the right of the public to receive suitable access to social, political, esthetic, moral,
and other ideas and experiences which is crucial here.”
29
Note in this passage how, in a decision that
grants certain speakers (in this case politicians) access to the media, the only articulated First Amendment
right is the audience’s right of access to “social, political, esthetic, morel and other ideas and
experiences.”
30
Indeed, nowhere in the decision does the Court argue that the politicians who have been
granted a right of access to the media have been granted such access on the basis of their individual First
Amendment rights.
Similarly, in justifying its decision in the CBS case, the Court drew heavily upon its decision in
Red Lion, noting again that “It is the right of the public to receive suitable access….”
31
Moreover, the
Court noted that the reasonable access provisions make “a significant contribution to freedom of
expression by enhancing the ability of candidates to present, and the public to receive, information
necessary for the effective operation of the democratic process.”
32
Again, an access right is being granted
primarily on behalf of collective benefits (in this case, the effective operation of the democratic process),
not on behalf of preserving and promoting the liberties and autonomy of the individual speaker.
Even advocates of a speaker’s right of access to the media have relied upon this same interpretive
stance. Consider, for instance, that, in his initial articulation of a right of access to the media, Barron
justifies this access right on the grounds of producing a better-informed citizenry and in terms of
29
Supra, note 19 at 390.
30
Id.
31
Supra, not 20 at 728 (citations omitted).
32
Id. at 729.


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