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Freedom of the Press - The Electronic Age

cable fcc communications broadcasting

Though First Amendment press protections were eventually extended to broadcasting and cable television media, the courts recognized a government regulatory role because of the limited number of broadcast frequencies available. In 1943 the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to determine who receives broadcast licenses was upheld. However, the FCC was required to apply neutral criteria not based on an applicant's viewpoints. In the late 1940s the FCC established a "fairness doctrine" requiring broadcasters to cover public issues and allow various views to be aired. Broadcasters challenged this rule as government interference of content and a First Amendment violation. In 1969 Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission the Court upheld the rule, but by 1987 the FCC discarded the "fairness doctrine."

Earlier in the 1960s, the FCC had entered the realm of regulating cable television by requiring cable companies to serve local community needs. In the mid-1970s the FCC required new cable systems to allocate channels for public, educational, and local government use but these requirements were not supported by the Court in a 1979 decision. In 1986 City of Los Angeles v. Preferred Communications, Inc. the Court extended First Amendment protection to the cable franchising process. Most of the same constitutional guarantees of newspapers and magazines were extended to cable TV in a cable television's "Bill of Rights" in 1994 Turner Broadcasting System v. Federal Communications Commission, though later in 1997 the Court in Turner Broadcasting System v. Federal Communications Commission II added some restrictions.

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