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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:  15 Access variations can exist across individual content types as well. For instance, policymakers traditionally have valued broadcast programming produced within local markets and/or addressing local issues and concerns (e.g., local public affairs programming). Unfortunately, when programmers have provided such programming, economic incentives frequently have led them to air such programming in very poor time slots (with the quality of the time slot defined in terms of the size of the available audience). It perhaps goes without saying that the producers of such programming are not enjoying the same level of access to audiences as the producers of programming that is aired in prime time. A program that airs at dawn on Sunday does not have the same level of access to an audience as a program that airs at 8:00 PM. These examples are being put forth to illustrate the distinction between the concept of access to the media and the concept of access to audiences, not necessarily as examples of First Amendment access problems requiring some sort of policy remedy. In each of these cases, speakers with comparable access to the media have very different levels of access to audiences. Thus the concept of access to the media is perhaps best thought of as a subcomponent of the more complex concept of access audiences. Treating the concept of access to the media as synonymous with the concept of access to audiences is therefore inappropriate. Appropriateness of a Right of Access to Audiences to Media Policy One certainly could question whether the notion of a speaker’s First Amendment right of access to audiences is necessary or appropriate in the realm of media regulation and policy. In terms of necessity, one could argue that the access to the media concept is sufficient. On the contrary, the concept of a right of access to audiences is particularly vital to analyzing the regulatory and policy issues emerging in the contemporary media environment. The contemporary media environment is one in which, on the one hand, ownership of the most prominent media outlets is becoming increasingly concentrated and in which, despite the increasing array of available content options, the majority of

Authors: Napoli, Philip.
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Access variations can exist across individual content types as well. For instance, policymakers
traditionally have valued broadcast programming produced within local markets and/or addressing local
issues and concerns (e.g., local public affairs programming). Unfortunately, when programmers have
provided such programming, economic incentives frequently have led them to air such programming in
very poor time slots (with the quality of the time slot defined in terms of the size of the available
audience). It perhaps goes without saying that the producers of such programming are not enjoying the
same level of access to audiences as the producers of programming that is aired in prime time. A program
that airs at dawn on Sunday does not have the same level of access to an audience as a program that airs at
8:00 PM.
These examples are being put forth to illustrate the distinction between the concept of access to
the media and the concept of access to audiences, not necessarily as examples of First Amendment access
problems requiring some sort of policy remedy. In each of these cases, speakers with comparable access
to the media have very different levels of access to audiences. Thus the concept of access to the media is
perhaps best thought of as a subcomponent of the more complex concept of access audiences. Treating
the concept of access to the media as synonymous with the concept of access to audiences is therefore
inappropriate.
Appropriateness of a Right of Access to Audiences to Media Policy
One
certainly could question whether the notion of a speaker’s First Amendment right of access
to audiences is necessary or appropriate in the realm of media regulation and policy. In terms of
necessity, one could argue that the access to the media concept is sufficient. On the contrary, the concept
of a right of access to audiences is particularly vital to analyzing the regulatory and policy issues
emerging in the contemporary media environment. The contemporary media environment is one in
which, on the one hand, ownership of the most prominent media outlets is becoming increasingly
concentrated and in which, despite the increasing array of available content options, the majority of


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