Saturday, May 27, 2017

Judge Agrees Broadcasters Have Right to Refuse Advertisements

SiriusXM has just scored a victory that also provides a lesson in this fraught political time where refusing to run an advertisement engenders cries of censorship. According to a California federal judge, not running an ad is an exercise in free speech.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the satellite radio broadcaster got U.S. District Court judge David Carter to reject a lawsuit from InfoStream Group, which runs the dating sites and In California federal court, InfoStream complained how SiriusXM stopped running ads for the websites. SiriusXM deemed the ads as falling short of a revised policy on standards and practices. InfoStream argued the broadcaster's refusal was "pretextual," one designed to garner favor from SiriusXM's preferred customers.

In response to the lawsuit, SiriusXM brought a motion to strike the complaint pursuant to California's anti-SLAPP statute, which was designed to curtail legal efforts chilling First Amendment activity. As a result, Carter had to examine whether a broadcaster's decision to decline an advertisement was indeed protected activity.

This is a subject of greater consequence than the dispute at hand, reports THR.  For example, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC earlier this month refused to air Donald Trump commercials because of a "Fake News" banner overlaid on the faces of well-known anchors. In response, Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of the president, made a statement how "the mainstream media are champions of the First Amendment only when it serves their own political views."

Trump added, "This is an unprecedented act of censorship in America that should concern every freedom-loving citizen."

She has it backwards. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from making laws abridging free speech. This essentially means the government can't interfere with the exercise of free speech. It doesn't mean that everyone always gets unfettered access to the platform of their choosing in speaking their minds.

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