“Too Legit to Quit”: Free Speech Clause Protection For Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum Broadcasters

Jonathan A. Messier


Unlike other types of media, broadcasters do not enjoy full First Amendment protection against government restraints on speech.

1 The government’s authority to restrain broadcast speech derives from the intrinsic limitations of early radio signal modulation technology.2 Early radios were designed to communicate with each other by decrypting radio signals that were broadcasted over a single radio frequency.3 Interference with the per frequency operation of radios impeded early listeners’ abilities to hear speech from competing broadcasters and contributed to a perceived scarcity of broadcast frequencies (i.e., broadcast spectrum) for delivering free speech.4 Amid such perceived scarcity and due to the competition for access to the airwaves between broadcasters and the listening public interest, government restraints on broadcasters developed concomitantly with lowered First Amendment protection for broadcasters.5 Since then, broadcasters must apply for costly government-issued licenses to speak over the airwaves, and unlicensed broadcasters face sanctions.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/tlp.2009.49


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