Media Regulation: Crash Course Government and Politics #45

Hello. I’m Craig, and this is Crash Course
Government and Politics. Today I’m gonna talk a little bit about the media. Specifically,
the way the media interacts with the government itself, and more specifically, the way the
government regulates the media. Some of you might be saying, “Craig, get real, the government
doesn’t regulate the media. We live in a free-market capitalist society and the only real regulation
on what gets published or broadcast is determined by consumers, Craig.”
Right Clone: Right on. Craig: Except that there are things you can’t
say on television or print in a newspaper either because they’re harmful or untrue,
and there are a number of government agencies that exist to place limits on the media and
to make sure that we have access to information. Left Clone: Right on!
Craig: Don’t you mean left on? [laughs] But wait, so you guys both agree then?
Clones: No. Craig: Oh, I guess I misunderstood. [Theme Music] Let’s start our discussion of government regulation
of the media with a little review. The oldest form of media in the US is print, so you might
think that it has been the most regulated, but you’ll remember from our episode on the
freedom of the press that this isn’t really the case because of the pesky first amendment. The freedom of the press was written into
the Bill of Rights because the framers wisely recognized that without a free press, Americans
would be less able to have the information they needed to make good political decisions,
which they do all the time. They also make bad political decisions, too.
They just make a lot of decisions. So there are very few government regulations
on what can and can’t appear in the newspaper. Near v. Minnesota basically said that there
could be no censorship in the form of prior restraint. In New York Times v. US, the Pentagon Papers
case made it difficult for the government to use national security as an excuse to prevent publication
of sensitive, or in that case, embarrassing material. There are still libel laws that allow individuals
to sue newspapers and magazines when they print something that they don’t like. But
as far as public figures are concerned, the Supreme Court’s decision in New York Times
v. Sullivan makes it pretty hard to censor the press by suing for libel. So I can say anything
I want about public figures. Public figures are dumb. In order to win this type of lawsuit, the
plaintiff must show that the article, or advertisement, was both untrue and published with actual
malice or reckless disregard for the truth, which is a very, very high bar. What this
means in practice is that the first amendment pretty much protects print media from government
regulation. Although as we saw in the last episode, the number of Americans getting their
information from print is shrinking. So maybe the markets are doing the regulation after
all. Although I don’t think people are buying fewer newspapers as a way of regulating their
content. They probably just don’t want the papers cluttering up their house and they
don’t wanna get that ink on their hands, you know, the black ink the rubs off. The government is taking a larger role in
TV and radio, possibly because it reaches the largest numbers. Broadcast media is the most
tightly regulated among the information sources. The first and probably least transparent way
that the government regulates broadcast media is through control of the airwaves, which
is done through licensing. Broadcast spectrum is a limited resource and is technically owned
by the public, so if you want to broadcast, you need to purchase a license from the federal
government. This gives you the right to operate your television or radio station under certain
well-defined conditions. These licenses must be renewed every five years and they almost
always are. The licenses are granted and most of the government regulation of broadcasters
is managed by the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC. It was founded in 1934 to oversee
a chaotic radio industry and it soon expanded to include television. As part of its mission,
the FCC required that in order for a station to be granted a license, it had to show that
it was operating in the public interest. In terms of politics, this meant that the FCC
has come up with some rules regarding what gets broadcast. Every channel has to have
a CSI. The first rule, dating back to 1949, is called
the Fairness Doctrine. This requires broadcasters to give equal time to each side of a public
issue. So if a station airs a program criticizing a war, say the one in Vietnam or the one in
Iraq, it has to air another program of equal length that supports the war. What this meant
in practice was that stations shied away from controversial programming, even though the
Fairness Doctrine was never rigidly enforced. The lack of enforcement and generally
non-controversial nature of commercial broadcasting didn’t stop Ronald Reagan’s administration from
pushing for the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1983. Congress voted to reinstate it in 1987
when Democrats took control, but Reagan said “uh-uh,” and he vetoed the legislation. As a result,
the Fairness Doctrine is pretty much dead. Other rules related to the Fairness Doctrine
are the Equal Time Rule, which requires that broadcasters not discriminate in selling time
to political candidates, and the Right of Rebuttal, which ensures a political candidate
will have the opportunity to respond to a personal attack if it gets aired. These rules do
not apply to eagles, however. Yeah, you stay down. There’s another important FCC rule that
deals with media ownership, but I’m gonna talk about that later because the FCC didn’t
tell me I can’t. The FCC also regulates what can be broadcast,
but these rules doesn’t relate to politics so much as obscenity, indecency, or profanity
showing up on radio or television. Sometimes these FCC rulings and fines become
Supreme Court cases as people raise concerns about whether they deny our precious, precious
free speech. One of the most famous cases in this area, FCC v. Pacifica Broadcasting,
dealt with comedian George Carlin’s Seven Words routine, which I will not be repeating because
Crash Course is a family-friendly educational channel. This case established that it’s okay for the FCC to
require that certain language and images not be broadcast during family times,
which is before 10 PM. The FCC also hands out fines for f-bombs and
wardrobe malfunctions to keep us safe and virtuous. I should point out here that these FCC rules
only apply to broadcast media and not most basic cable channels, which is why there’s
so many naked people in Game of Thrones. I don’t know if that’s why there is,
but that’s why they can do it. Congress also tried to regulate broadcasters
by passing legislation, as it tried to do with the 1996 Telecommuncations Act. This
act was best known for its failed attempts to regulate the internet, but it had other
more interesting effects, too. As with any congressional legislation, this act was subject
to Supreme Court judicial review. The court did strike down part of the law, Title V, which
was called the Communications Decency Act and was meant to regulate online pornography,
because its definition of obscenity was overbroad, and the court said that it violated the first
amendment. Speaking of the internet, unlike print and
broadcast media, it’s largely self-regulating. This is possibly because Congress has recognized
that it changes so quickly that most laws and regulations will be out of date by the
time they’re finally written. But this hasn’t stopped them from trying. After the court
struck down the Communications Decency Act, Congress tried again with the Child Online
Protection Act in 1998, and they failed. This one didn’t make it all the way to the Supreme
Court, but lower federal courts enjoined the government from enforcing it in 2007. A more effective way to regulate the internet
has been through lawsuits, especially those around intellectual property. As viewers of
our IP series know, this is super complicated, but basically people can use the courts to
restrict the internet. A good example of this was the Napster case, where courts ruled against
the file-sharing company and it was shut down. It takes individuals, and Metallica, and corporations
to bring these suits, but they use the government to shape the internet to meet their interests,
so it can be seen as government regulation. Speaking of corporations, this is a good place
to bring up a couple of very complicated regulatory issues involving the internet,
television and newspapers. The first one has to do with media ownership.
Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Part of the 1996 Telecommunications Law, Title
III to be more exact, dealt with the regulation of cable television. Actually, it was a deregulation
of the cable industry, allowing for companies that own newspapers and radio and television
stations to also own cable companies. This kind of cross-ownership was supposed to lower
barriers to entry into the cable business, and it was clarified by the 2003 FCC ruling
that allows a single company to own and operate the leading newspaper, television and cable
companies in a single market. This has led to concerns about monopolization of the media
as more and more companies merge. And it’s hard to argue that this isn’t happening. So
the number of companies that provide media content and access has been shrinking precipitously
in the past 30 years, which is probably why the FCC and Congress scrutinize media mergers
so closely. Critics point out that these kinds of super-mergers can lead to a lack of diversity
in media. This can lead to fewer points of view represented in our news coverage and
our stories. Net neutrality has also been a big issue,
you’ve probably head about it. The question revolves around whether the FCC should pass
rules that allow internet service providers to charge differential rates to companies
that use their bandwidth. For example, internet service providers sometimes sell faster or
better service to large companies like Netflix at the expense of smaller competitors or individuals
who don’t pay as much. Thanks, Thought Bubble. The net neutrality
issue is a really complex regulatory question, but the debate over it, which takes place
in Congress, on television, on the internet, and even through the FCC’s website, where
anyone’s allowed to make public comments on proposed rules, has been fascinating and it
points out a number of key issues involving government regulation of the media. First, it shows that a lot of media regulation
involves a number of actors. In this case, George Clooney. No, no, no, not those kinds
of actors. Private media companies, media organizations themselves and executive agencies
like the FCC. It also points out that the overarching regulatory structure is built
by Congress but that the real key actors are the regulatory rule makers and enforcers of the executive
branch. And George Clooney. He has aged so well. Even more important though, are the questions
that lie behind the debate. When we think about regulation, what comes to mind is regulation
of content or censorship, but with net neutrality rules as with FCC cross-ownership rules, what
we’re really looking at is regulation of access and how much media will be available at a
given price. Those who argue that the internet should be regulated like a public utility
rather than just another set of corporations that take their cues from the market are getting
at something. The media is different from other corporate entities because it serves
a public function, something that the framers realized when they wrote freedom of the press
into the first amendment. Without a robust media, Americans may have less access to information
that they need to make smarter political choices. Of course, all the access we have doesn’t
mean that we necessarily will make smarter choices, but in this case, being able to hear more
points of view is better than only hearing a few. That’s why we’re skeptical of censorship and why many
people wanna keep the internet as open as possible. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next time. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced
in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course US Government comes from
Voqal. Voqal supports nonprofits that use technology and media to advance social equity.
Learn more about their mission and initiatives at voqal.org. Crash Course is made with the
help of all these monstrous jerks. That’s not libel, they’re public figures. Go ahead,
try and sue me. Thanks for watching.

Stephen Childs


  1. I have animated science videos on my channel, like this comment so more people can see!

  2. News media shouldn't have freedom of the press/freedom of speech when reporting on news and must always only report from a source unless they explicitly say they are editorializing and what they say is not necessarily true nor to be considered as true

  3. How many episodes is this series going to have ?
    I guess it's close to the end …

  4. Whoa, why the hell was Netflix get thrown under the bus here for the net neutrality? If anything, they are the ones that usually get restricted bandwidth because ISPs own a competing service like Hulu. Netflix is very much pro-net neutrality.

  5. Why you hating on netflix ? They get forced to PAY for the same as everyone else in a lot of place!

  6. Surprised he didn't touch on the corruption of state-run media like PBS & NPR. They use tax money to push an agenda of more government control. These entities need to be sold off instead of government run.

  7. The biggest restriction to free speech on TV is not the government, but industries who threaten to withdraw their advertisements from a channel if the channel airs points of view they find unfavorable.

  8. 3:37 1997? Ronald Reagan was President in 1997? Really? Take down this video and reupload it without this error.

  9. 2:03 unless even one copy of that medium is sold in the UK, then you can sue them 'til your heart's content.

  10. Net Neutrality needs to learn the meaning of DFTBA…the FCC for that matter needs to as well.

  11. Is it telling of society that Rightist Craig was excited by freedom of the press, and Leftist Craig was excited by press censorship?

  12. A thought for y'all, GE and Seagram's Gin are two of the biggest media companies in the United States.

  13. A video about media regulation that doesn't mention campaign finance laws? Campaign finance laws are the biggest restriction on political speech in the US today.

  14. What? People still watched the IP law series, even after Stan opened it with (paraphrasing) "You Linux nerds deal with intellectual property too, you just don't think you do?"

  15. This is one of latest main topics in Poland. New government elected in 2015 just have changed public media into "national media" controlled by them. They written new law and fired a lot of people and put their own and now it's full of propaganda. Good that we still have private media.

  16. I wonder if it would be a good idea to pu an upper age limit on being a politician. Like, let's say ,over 40 years, you'd no longer be allowed to run for any office. This would guarantee that fresh viewpoints and way of thinkng is introduced in to the political life more often.

  17. Media companies are shooting themselves in the foot by merging and demolishing their diversity of perspective. The internet will always be a place where large media conglomerates and people in their bedrooms are presented on the same playing field, and the new and fresh perspective will always win.

  18. Dear, John Green

    Thanks a million for Saving me in my finals. I binged watched your vids and it saved my grade in international studies.
    From, Seth

  19. corrupt practices exist in all forms as we speak we can hide and write up blogs after a piece of footage and compare and contrast our views to correct the perspective of an average citizen

  20. But we must be aware of what the current trends are and not past taboos if the press or journalists distort , undermine , write off accurate and unbias true facts then will not see lush , picturesque end (WHAT WE WILL SEE) Broken societies , rife of abuse from politicians

  21. Best to use words like bias , abuse , corrupt , dirt , mess , propaganda , anarchist , 1984 , room 101 , big brother , george orwell ,

  22. Wait, the media can be taken to court if they are maliciously lying. Then shouldn't like all media be like illegal.

  23. I hate John green cause my history teacher tortures us with his videos and everyone literally hates him cause he talks so fast and is annoying

  24. Thanks for explaining net neutrality. I always understood what it meant, but now I see why it's important.

  25. I know all about the FCC. They'll clean up all your talking in a manner such as this, they'll make you take take a tinkle when you wanna take a piss, and they'll make you call fellatio a "trouser-friendly kiss".

  26. "And the Right Of Rebuttal which ensures that a political candidate will have the opportunity to respond to a political attack if it gets aired."

    Given how common political attack ads are, doesn't that mean it could theoretically be possible to rely entirely on your opponent's guaranteed attack ads to give you free ad time instead of raising campaign money for advertising? Have any candidates ever tried this, I wonder?

  27. The rise in media bias ( cnn msnbc cbs going for liberal/democrats, fox going for Republican) has spurred the rise of internet media. More people recognize the need for an independent voice. In unrelated news, Germany is working with facebook and google to curb public outcry against government decisions and prevent people from voicing whats happening with the migrants in that country. Claiming "hate speech" .

  28. This is exactly why having the choice to be anonymous or to be 'anon' online is a big deal.

  29. Game of Thrones isn't basic cable. That's paid subscription service. Special. That's why HBO is basically soft core porn half the time when they do a show: subscription service means basically no restrictions.
    Basic cable is basic. No paid services included – unless your on a non-basic package.
    Seriously, Crash Course, you guys can't figure out how cable works? This is such a disappointing mix up. Comedy Central would've been a valid example.

  30. Could we rename this series to say…"Crash Course 'US' Government and Politics"?

    Current title kinda suggest it's generic, sorry for pricklyness ^^

  31. I think they news to add to all news programs and advertisements a law making it illegal to lie on broadcast media.

  32. Thank you Crash Course for laying knowledge bombs on me. Your series are a hallmark of entertaining and responsible education!

  33. All news nowadays are basically journalism, they present opinions on facts rather than the facts themselves.

  34. When corporate-run media slants information that results in someone believing an un-truth, and as a result that person harms or kills someone — should the media be regulated then?

  35. Every time I hear the acronym FCC the music from Family Guy about FCC always comes to my mind.

  36. Random thought: Crash Course should make a series or even just a miniseries on Greek mythology and/or other ancient polytheistic beliefs. Anyone agree?

  37. Internet neutrality is just a bait to restrict what people can or can't publish on internet. They've already approved it in Brazil and, often, judges use the internet neutrality law to censor content. Of course that regulators will not say "we want to be the ones to tell you what you are allowed to speak". They will always present bills to increase their power as if it was the people's interest.

  38. Whoever thinks that we live in a free market capitalist society is in desperate need of economic education.

  39. So Media Company's are stopped by the law to say or publish what they want to say. I guess First Amendment rights don't exist after all.

  40. I'd thought mortal combat and the esrb and the quiz show scandal would be mentioned.

  41. YES! thank you government for keeping me safe I will surrender everything you deem problematic in the bill of rights

  42. my first job was news paper delivery on my mountain bike when i was a kid, awe those were the days… then they fired the whole staff and brought in guys with trucks to deliver all the papers instead of the kids 🙁

  43. Your graphical content on net neutrality was terrible and misleading as to how that works.
    I love the show, but that was a rare failure. Yet, a very important one.

  44. I am a teacher who will be focusing on the Election process this school year, and your little quick flicks are an easy way to explain it. Thanks for making them.

  45. Am I the only one that like censorship of offensive content and think there's not enough?

  46. I sat through 6 grammarly ads while watching a playlist of your guys' videos.

  47. Trying to find something on when news transitioned from public service requirement for FCC to entertainment


  49. Based on this information, repealing net neutrality in my eyes, is unconstitutional because it decreases the chances of all point of views being expressed and freedom of speech and the press is protected by net neutrality

  50. The video is informative but would be much more effective if he spoke more slowly! It is difficult to absorb the content.

  51. I wish there was less discussion at all levels about making sure "opposing viewpoints" get equal time.

    What's really needed is more emphasis on/attention to media broadcasting objective truth

  52. The highest affirmation of what someone is transcends level 7 to level 8 as a point to reach. The definition of a man being one, for instance. 7 transmutes being like sporting at the end of competitive reality, which, personally can have a natural wild sinfulness as not being beautiful.

  53. I need to watch these videos on 0.75 speed just to take it all in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *