A group of ten state broadcaster associations led by Don Hicks, President of the Missouri Broadcasters Association, wonders why broadcast (along with cable and satellite) is singled out by McCain/Feingold provisions preventing corporations and unions from taking their political messages to the airwaves. The group, through attorneys at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in an effort to defend broadcasters’ First Amendment rights.
“Broadcasters must be vigilant to repel encroachments on the First Amendment,” said Hicks. “I am pleased that ten state broadcaster associations have come together to stand up for this principle.”
The case, concerning electioneering communications sponsored by corporations and unions, is Citizens United v. FEC. The broadcasters’ friend of the court argument is that the law in unconstitutional since it only applies to some media. WCSR attorney Lawrence H. Norton explained, “Our clients’ brief gives the Court a unique perspective on the threat to First Amendment rights when the government determines which media may be used for political speech.”
The coalition also made other arguments, including: The ban “channels” speech and robs citizens of the right to choose their mode of communication; the threat of fines/jail tied to arcane rules leads to self-censorship; and broadcasters are sometimes improperly placed in the position of trying to assist clients with these difficult decisions.
WCSR attorneys Gregg Skall and James Kahl co-authored the broadcasters brief along with Norton.
RBR/TVBR observation: Forgetting for a moment about the legal ramifications of this matter, it can be seen as testimony to the great value of broadcasting. If the drafters of McCain/Feingold thought newspaper, magazines, the internet and other advertising venues were effective, they would have included them in the ban. They did not, a compelling tribute to broadcasting’s status as the Big Dog when it comes to effective advertising.