You Don't Have a First Amendment Right to a Television Show

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 19 2013 10:01 AM

You Don't Have a First Amendment Right to a Television Show

I'm not going to go long on the issue of Duck Dynasty, but this kind of nonsense from politicians drives me crazy:

The only relevant First Amendment issue here is that A&E has a constitutional right to make its own decisions about what kind of programming it wants to air without bullying by the governor of Louisiana. The First Amendment very much does not prevent private firms from declining to air certain kinds of content that they think will alienate their audience, or private citizens from engaging in organized criticism of private broadcasters who don't bend to their will.

At times this power can be used for ill, as when NBC executives feared that local affiliates in the South would refuse to air the "Plato's Stepchildren" episode of Star Trek. But there, too, the real First Amendment problem would be if the Johnson administration somehow tried to force NBC to make shows depicting interracial kisses.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.