Brief Fact Summary. Forbes (Petitioner) was running for political office and was denied the opportunity to participate in a television debate.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The First Amendment does not compel public broadcasters to provide access to programming for third parties.
Arkansas Educational Television Commission (Respondent) decided to broadcast a political debate amongst the top congressional candidates. One hour was allotted for the debate in a question and answer format. Respondent acquired enough signatures to be on the ballot after Petitioner issued the initial invites. Respondent requested that he be allowed to participate, but Petitioner still refused.
Issue. Because the government owned the television station was it obligated to open the debate to all candidates?
Held. No. Although the speech was subject to the scrutiny of a non-public forum, the television station still had the right to exercise journalistic judgment and limit the participants.
Dissent. Points of Law - for Law School Success
Although public broadcasting as a general matter does not lend itself to scrutiny under the forum doctrine, candidate debates present the narrow exception to the rule. View Full Point of Law
The television station created a public debate forum in which all candidates should have had access. The majority decision gives the state the power to eliminate the unpopular views without proper constitutional justification. Discussion.
The majority gives deference to the journalist to decide what to include in the programming. Respondent was not banned from the debate because of his views. Instead, he was not invited because there was a lack of public interest and support of his candidacy in general.