Monday, September 22, 2014

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

My case study was over the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. In it, I explored the political spending of corporations and the effect it has had on different types of media, including political ads, documentaries and stand alone programming, traditional news media and the average voter. In this, I attempted to answer the question of the week: "who controls/monitors the media?"

The Citizens United case was the Supreme Court's ruling that the government can't regulate independent political expenditures by corporations. This differed from the past in that it was the first time that companies and labor unions can now use unlimited amounts of their money to expressly advocate for a candidate. Past laws such as the Tillman Act of 1907 and Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 had previously prohibited this, but in 2010, these were overturned by Citizens United. This has changed media in that it's made it possible for corporations to support much more speech through radio and TV ads. Companies can now also produce documentaries either for or against a candidate. As a result, the traditional news media has become more cluttered and the average voter is much more likely to be misled by talking points, soundbites and propaganda masquerading as news.

The discussion that followed was centered mostly different people's opinions of the ruling. The general consensus of the class was that the ruling would lead to more corruption and that it was a problem when trying to define free speech like the book talked about. Most people said they saw it crossing the line of free speech and that this right shouldn't be extended to corporations. I asked if the class thought it would be more difficult to distinguish news from corporate propaganda and the general response was that it was already difficult to tell and that they thought the ruling would make it even more difficult. This brought it back around to the question of the week. The government is giving up a little more of its control to monitor and regulate the media (in the political spectrum at least) and the full consequences of this will be seen in the coming years as the case develops.


•Chatillon, D. (2010). Citizens United: Coining Soon to a Cable Broadcast and Satellite Channel near You!. Communications Lawyer, 27(1), 1-32.
•Kerr, R. L. (2011). Transforming Corporate Political Media Spending into Freedom of Speech: A Story of Alchemy and Finesse, 1977-78. American Journalism, 28(1), 34-74.

•WALZ, C. N. (2011). Campaigns Turn to Courts over Political Advertising. Communications Lawyer, 28(1), 3-7.

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