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Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC

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Constitutional Law Keyed to Stone

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 395 U.S. 367, 89 S. Ct. 1794, 23 L. Ed. 2d 371, 1 Med. L. Rptr. 2053 (1969)

Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, the Red Lion Broadcasting Co. (Plaintiff), alleges that its First Amendment constitutional rights were violated by the Defendant, the Federal Communication Commission (Defendant). The Plaintiff argued that a rule passed by the Defendant, requiring a person or group whose character, honesty or integrity is attacked on the Plaintiff’s broadcast be given the opportunity to respond to the attack is unconstitutional.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) is not violated by rules passed by the Defendant requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others and to present those views and voices which are representative of his community and which would otherwise be barred from the airwaves.

Facts. The Defendant imposed a fairness doctrine on broadcasters. This fairness doctrine requires that if an attack is made upon the honesty, character or integrity of an identified person or group, during presentations of views on controversial issue of public importance, that the attacked person or group must be given notice, a transcript and reasonable opportunity to respond. The political editorializing rule requires that when in an editorial, a broadcaster endorses or opposes a political candidate, the broadcaster must notify the opposed candidate and give them reasonable opportunity to reply. The Plaintiff challenge the fairness doctrine and editorializing rule alleging that the rules abridge their freedom of speech and press. The Plaintiff contends the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) protects their desire to use their allotted frequencies to broadcast whatever they choose and exclude whatever they choose.

Issue. Whether the Defendant’s fairness doctrine and its component regulations governing personal attacks and political editorializing violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.
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