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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:  3 Introduction The concept of access is gaining increasing prominence in media regulation and policy. 1 Policies ranging from the funding of Internet access for schools and libraries, to the cable must-carry rules, to political campaign regulations, all are premised to varying degrees on improving access for speakers and audiences to the mechanisms necessary to engage in the communication process. While these access policies have been implemented on behalf of a variety of social, political, and economic goals, it is important to recognize that access policies also often have a significant First Amendment component. That is, access policies as they pertain to the media frequently are premised, at least in part, on the notion that the First Amendment guarantees both speakers and audiences sufficient access to the communication process to facilitate the free flow of ideas and information that is essential to both individual liberty and to the effective functioning of the democratic process. 2 However, policymakers and the courts have tended to conceptualize access rights – and their underlying rationales – differently in mediated and non-mediated contexts. Specifically, the tradition of a speaker’s First Amendment right of access to an audience that is quite well established in non-mediated contexts has not factored as prominently in mediated communication contexts. In mediated contexts, the concept of access to audiences has been supplanted by the similar – though significantly different – concept of access to the media, or to the press. Compounding this difference in terminology is the fact that the right of access to the media typically has been premised upon different First Amendment values than the right of access to audiences. Specifically, the right of access to the media has been premised primarily upon “collectivist” First Amendment values such as enhancing the democratic process and 1 See generally, Andrew D. Auerbach, Mandatory Access and the Information Infrastructure, 3 C OMM L AW C ONSPECTUS 1; Philip M. Napoli, Access and Fundamental Principles in Communication Policy, 2002 L. R EV . M.S.U./D.C.L. 1. 2 As the Supreme Court noted in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, “decisions involving corporations in the business of communication or entertainment are based not only on the role of the First Amendment in fostering individual self-expression but also on its role in affording the public access to discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas,” 435 U.S. 765, 783 (1978).

Authors: Napoli, Philip.
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3
Introduction
The concept of access is gaining increasing prominence in media regulation and policy.
1
Policies
ranging from the funding of Internet access for schools and libraries, to the cable must-carry rules, to
political campaign regulations, all are premised to varying degrees on improving access for speakers and
audiences to the mechanisms necessary to engage in the communication process. While these access
policies have been implemented on behalf of a variety of social, political, and economic goals, it is
important to recognize that access policies also often have a significant First Amendment component.
That is, access policies as they pertain to the media frequently are premised, at least in part, on the notion
that the First Amendment guarantees both speakers and audiences sufficient access to the communication
process to facilitate the free flow of ideas and information that is essential to both individual liberty and to
the effective functioning of the democratic process.
2
However, policymakers and the courts have tended to conceptualize access rights – and their
underlying rationales – differently in mediated and non-mediated contexts. Specifically, the tradition of a
speaker’s First Amendment right of access to an audience that is quite well established in non-mediated
contexts has not factored as prominently in mediated communication contexts. In mediated contexts, the
concept of access to audiences has been supplanted by the similar – though significantly different –
concept of access to the media, or to the press. Compounding this difference in terminology is the fact
that the right of access to the media typically has been premised upon different First Amendment values
than the right of access to audiences. Specifically, the right of access to the media has been premised
primarily upon “collectivist” First Amendment values such as enhancing the democratic process and
1
See generally, Andrew D. Auerbach, Mandatory Access and the Information Infrastructure, 3 C
OMM
L
AW
C
ONSPECTUS
1; Philip M. Napoli, Access and Fundamental Principles in Communication Policy, 2002 L. R
EV
.
M.S.U./D.C.L. 1.
2
As the Supreme Court noted in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, “decisions involving corporations in the
business of communication or entertainment are based not only on the role of the First Amendment in fostering
individual self-expression but also on its role in affording the public access to discussion, debate, and the
dissemination of information and ideas,” 435 U.S. 765, 783 (1978).


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