Freedom of the Press for Whom?

Freedom of the Press for Whom? : Right of Access to Mass Media

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Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 140 x 220mm
  • Indiana University Press
  • United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0253201780
  • 9780253201782

Review Text

Professor Barron's name, though not a household word, is as well known as Spiro T. Agnew's in press circles. And it is not an exaggeration to say that Barron's "right to access" hypothesis, first broadcast in the Harvard Law Review some five years ago, causes just as many shudders among media top brass as do the Vice President's glowering threats, though there is little similarity between the men's understanding of the communications industry's role and certainly none between their proposals. Agnew would censor the press extralegally through intimidation; failing that, he would resort to legal restrictions implemented through the regulatory power of the FCC and, as we have seen recently, through the courts. Barron, on the other hand, opposes government censorship - "The remedy does not lie in frightening the media." Rather, Barron is suggesting that the First Amendment press freedom guarantee is at best ineffectual, at worst empty, if interpreted as simply freedom from government restraint; freedom of the press must be broadened, he argues, to include the public's right to be heard - "The remedy is simply to demand inclusion where exclusion is practiced." This is a radical idea, full of philosophical and procedural booby traps for the media managers, but it springs from the deepest wells of egalitarianism. Barron would begin the process of elasticizing press freedom for everyone on the issue of the right to purchase advertising space, then the right to have a letter-to-the-editor published, and so on. In addition he bas drafted a model "right to access" law wherein legal obligation could be imposed on the press "only when proven necessity (total denial of access) demands it." Underlying all of this is the startling realization that media corporate interests - newspaper, radio, and television management - have been using, perhaps very cynically, the First Amendment to subvert the "voice of pluralism" in a pluralistic nation. Barron's analysis of pertinent case histories and the constitutional ramifications of his public use theory are brilliant, albeit controversial. For both these reasons we urge that his book be read by the opinion-making community. (Kirkus Reviews)show more