Gojomo

2005-03-29
America's chief censor gets First Amendment backwards

NYTimes: Under New Chief, F.C.C. Considers Widening Its Reach

'Certainly broadcasters and cable operators have significant First Amendment rights, but these rights are not without boundaries,' [new FCC chair Kevin J. Martin] wrote. 'They are limited by law. They also should be limited by good taste.'
The First Amendment's imperative language doesn't grant any rights. Rather, it limits what Congress can do -- and thus also what any bureaucracy created and funded by Congress, like the Federal Communications Commission, can do. For reference:
Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Note that key phrase: "Congress shall make no law..." Martin's got it almost exactly backwards. The First Amendment is not itself "limited by law" -- the First Amendment itself limits what laws can be passed and enforced.

Here's a simple idea: "broadcasters and cable operators" should have exactly the same expressive rights as anyone speaking to a room or writing in a periodical, book, or pamphlet. There should be no extra "limits" because of the chosen medium of communication. This principle should be self-evident -- and yet because people have become accustomed to the the FCC's 70-year reign, the idea appears radical.

I agree with Declan: the FCC should be abolished.

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