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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:  4 preventing abuses of governmental power, whereas the right of access to audiences has been premised primarily upon more “individualist” values such as the preservation and promotion of individual liberty and autonomy. This paper will explore this distinction between a speaker’s right of access to an audience and his right of access to the media and its implications for media regulation and policy. This paper will argue that the right of access to audiences that is prominent and well-established in non-mediated speech contexts should receive comparable prominence in mediated speech contexts, and that this access right should be premised on the same individualist First Amendment values as it is in non-mediated contexts. The first section of this paper outlines a speaker’s First Amendment right of access to audiences. As this section will demonstrate, the concept of the right of access to audiences grew largely out of the “public forum doctrine” which addresses speaker’s rights of access to public spaces and is premised primarily upon the individual liberties that the First Amendment protects. The second section traces speaker access rights in the mediated context. As this section will argue, the concept of speaker access to audiences never has attained comparable prominence mediated contexts. Instead, as a review of prominent access cases will illustrate, the predominant access right that the courts have recognized is one of a right of access to the media. This access “right” typically is premised primarily upon the First Amendment rights of audiences to diverse sources of information, and the collective benefits that such access provides, rather than upon First Amendment access rights that the speaker possesses, and the individual liberties that such access protects and supports. The third section examines the important applicational distinctions between the right of access to the media and the right of access to audiences. As this section will illustrate, a right of access to audiences is both a more sensitive and a more complex standard to apply to speakers’ access rights than a right of access to the media. The fourth section argues that the right of access to audiences merits much greater prominence in policy and legal decision making pertaining to the media in light of the intended functions of the First Amendment. This section also provides evidence that the concept of a speaker’s right of access to an audience already has begun to find its way into the legal analysis of media regulations and policies. The final section explores the implications of a shift in analytical perspective from emphasizing speakers’ right of access to the media to

Authors: Napoli, Philip.
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preventing abuses of governmental power, whereas the right of access to audiences has been premised
primarily upon more “individualist” values such as the preservation and promotion of individual liberty
and autonomy. This paper will explore this distinction between a speaker’s right of access to an audience
and his right of access to the media and its implications for media regulation and policy. This paper will
argue that the right of access to audiences that is prominent and well-established in non-mediated speech
contexts should receive comparable prominence in mediated speech contexts, and that this access right
should be premised on the same individualist First Amendment values as it is in non-mediated contexts.
The first section of this paper outlines a speaker’s First Amendment right of access to audiences.
As this section will demonstrate, the concept of the right of access to audiences grew largely out of the
“public forum doctrine” which addresses speaker’s rights of access to public spaces and is premised
primarily upon the individual liberties that the First Amendment protects. The second section traces
speaker access rights in the mediated context. As this section will argue, the concept of speaker access to
audiences never has attained comparable prominence mediated contexts. Instead, as a review of
prominent access cases will illustrate, the predominant access right that the courts have recognized is one
of a right of access to the media. This access “right” typically is premised primarily upon the First
Amendment rights of audiences to diverse sources of information, and the collective benefits that such
access provides, rather than upon First Amendment access rights that the speaker possesses, and the
individual liberties that such access protects and supports. The third section examines the important
applicational distinctions between the right of access to the media and the right of access to audiences.
As this section will illustrate, a right of access to audiences is both a more sensitive and a more complex
standard to apply to speakers’ access rights than a right of access to the media. The fourth section argues
that the right of access to audiences merits much greater prominence in policy and legal decision making
pertaining to the media in light of the intended functions of the First Amendment. This section also
provides evidence that the concept of a speaker’s right of access to an audience already has begun to find
its way into the legal analysis of media regulations and policies. The final section explores the
implications of a shift in analytical perspective from emphasizing speakers’ right of access to the media to


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