Missing the Point of a Free Press
Here's an ominous trend: Networks are rejecting paid issue advertisements because they are too political or too controversial. Some recent examples:
- A United Church of Christ campaign against intolerance of homosexuals. Rejected by CBS and NBC.
- A MoveOn.org ad complaining about Bush's deficit spending, rejected by CBS for the Superbowl, 2004.
- Four networks reject an ad opposing Bush on malpractice (via Avedon Carol)
The First Amendment, understood in this light, is not so much a matter of protecting rights as ensuring sound public judgment through the process of public deliberation. The true meaning of the law should therefore be determined, and limited, by matters having to do with the political process (broadly defined). Political speech should be encouraged since it is essential to the functioning of democracy, while non-political speech should be less fully protected when it conflicts with other interests and rights, such as privacy.The media, in its cowardice, is failing to fulfill its most important role in a free society.