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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:  8 guarantees “every citizen that he may reach the minds of willing listeners and to do so there must be opportunity.” 14 First Amendment Right of Access to Media When we examine issues of speaker access in the realm of electronic media, we generally find that the concept of speaker access to audiences described above is much less prominent. Instead much more focus has been placed on the concept of speaker access to the media, or to the press. In the transition to an increasingly mediated communications environment, the specific characteristics of a speaker’s access rights seem to have undergone a subtle but significant change. One of the most well-known articulations of a right of access to the media comes from legal scholar Jerome Barron. 15 According to Barron, the evolution of our communications environment from one of individual street corner speakers and pamphleteers to one of corporate controlled mass media outlets necessitates a reconsideration of how to conceptualize and apply the First Amendment. Specifically, the contemporary media environment brings unprecedented levels of inequality to the extent to which different speakers have the opportunity to have their voices heard. And, as the media industries grow more concentrated, fewer and fewer individuals control the flow of information to the public. To counteract these processes, Barron argues for an affirmative right of access to the media, such that individuals or viewpoints that might not otherwise be heard can be heard. In developing this argument, Barron draws support from judicial decisions in the public forum area that have articulated a speaker’s right of access to audiences. 16 According to Barron, the migration of this access principle from the public forum realm to the mass media realm is a logical transition. As he argues, “The influence of the privately-owned mass media on the information and opinion process is too great for an access-oriented first amendment theory to be halted in its tracks because the monopoly 14 Kovacs v. Cooper, supra note 6 at 87. 15 Jerome A. Barron, Access to the Press – A New First Amendment Right, 80 H ARVARD L. R EV 1641(1967). 16 See Jerome A. Barron, An Emerging Right of Access to the Media? 37 G EORGE W ASHINGTON U NIV . L. R EV . 487.

Authors: Napoli, Philip.
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background image
8
guarantees “every citizen that he may reach the minds of willing listeners and to do so there must be
opportunity.”
14
First Amendment Right of Access to Media
When we examine issues of speaker access in the realm of electronic media, we generally find
that the concept of speaker access to audiences described above is much less prominent. Instead much
more focus has been placed on the concept of speaker access to the media, or to the press. In the
transition to an increasingly mediated communications environment, the specific characteristics of a
speaker’s access rights seem to have undergone a subtle but significant change.
One of the most well-known articulations of a right of access to the media comes from legal
scholar Jerome Barron.
15
According to Barron, the evolution of our communications environment from
one of individual street corner speakers and pamphleteers to one of corporate controlled mass media
outlets necessitates a reconsideration of how to conceptualize and apply the First Amendment.
Specifically, the contemporary media environment brings unprecedented levels of inequality to the extent
to which different speakers have the opportunity to have their voices heard. And, as the media industries
grow more concentrated, fewer and fewer individuals control the flow of information to the public. To
counteract these processes, Barron argues for an affirmative right of access to the media, such that
individuals or viewpoints that might not otherwise be heard can be heard.
In developing this argument, Barron draws support from judicial decisions in the public forum
area that have articulated a speaker’s right of access to audiences.
16
According to Barron, the migration
of this access principle from the public forum realm to the mass media realm is a logical transition. As he
argues, “The influence of the privately-owned mass media on the information and opinion process is too
great for an access-oriented first amendment theory to be halted in its tracks because the monopoly
14
Kovacs v. Cooper, supra note 6 at 87.
15
Jerome A. Barron, Access to the Press – A New First Amendment Right, 80 H
ARVARD
L. R
EV
1641(1967).
16
See Jerome A. Barron, An Emerging Right of Access to the Media? 37 G
EORGE
W
ASHINGTON
U
NIV
. L. R
EV
. 487.


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