Copyright (c) 1998 Mississippi Law Journal
Mississippi Law Journal
RECENT DECISION: Constitutional Law--First Amendment--Public Broadcasters May Exclude Political Candidates From Debates as Long as Exclusion Is Reasonable and Viewpoint-Neutral
68 Miss. L.J. 391
In June 1992, the Arkansas Educational Television Commission (AETC), a state agency, invited the two major party candidates for Arkansas' Third Congressional District seat to an October debate. 1 In August 1992, Ralph Forbes qualified under state law to appear on the ballot as an independent candidate and asked to be included in the debate. 2 Since AETC did not regard Forbes as a serious candidate, they denied his request. 3 Forbes filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, claiming a right to participate in the debate on both statutory and First Amendment grounds. 4
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit narrowed the issue to whether AETC had violated the First Amendment by excluding Forbes from the debate. 5 On remand, the district court entered judgment for AETC. 6 The court of appeals then reversed and remanded. 7 Citing conflict among circuits, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and held: reversed. 8 The Court held that a state-owned television station may exclude political candidates from a televised debate as long as the exclusion is reasonable and not based upon the speaker's viewpoint. 9
A. Access to Broadcasting Facilities
The Supreme Court addressed the issue of access to broadcasting facilities in Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Democratic National Committee. 10 In Democratic National Committee, political organizations claimed that a broadcaster's refusal to air their paid advertisements violated the First Amendment. 11 The Court rejected their ...
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