The 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has made the decision that the First Amendment’s free speech clause was violated by the Federal Communications Commission’s ban on political advertising on radio stations and public television. In the main opinion, Judge Carlos Bea wrote, “Public issue and political speech in particular is at the very core of the First Amendment’s protection.” He continued to state that “public issues and political advertisements pose no threat of ‘commercialization’ and that such advertisements do not encourage viewers to buy commercial goods and services.” The rules laid out by the FCC banning for-profit advertising were kept intact by the court.
The FCC argued the government has an interest in airing educational programming and that these programs often run on Public Broadcasting stations. The court found that the FCC ban was too broad and that the educational nature of the programming would not be threatened by lifting the ban on political advertising.
Norman Ornstein, at the American Enterprise Institute, said the decision could “fundamentally change the character of public television and radio.” He said that this would occur by letting political and other organizations with deep-pockets to begin “swooping” onto the public airwaves to spread their messages.