Governmentally Compelled Right of Reply to Newspapers.

However divided it may have been in dealing with access to the broadcast media, the Court was unanimous in holding void under the First Amendment a state law that granted a political candidate a right to equal space to answer criticism and attacks on his record by a newspaper.1170 Granting that the number of newspapers had declined over the years, that ownership had become concentrated, and that new entries were prohibitively expensive, the Court agreed with proponents of the law that the problem of newspaper responsibility was a great one. But press responsibility, although desirable, “is not mandated by the Constitution,” whereas freedom is. The compulsion exerted by government on a newspaper to print what it would not otherwise print, “a compulsion to publish that which ‘reason tells them should not be published,’ ” runs afoul of the free press clause.1171


Miami Herald Pub. Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974). back
418 U.S. at 256. The Court also adverted to the imposed costs of the compelled printing of replies but this seemed secondary to the quoted conclusion. The Court has also held that a state may not require a privately owned utility company to include in its billing envelopes views of a consumer group with which it disagrees. Although a plurality opinion to which four Justices adhered relied heavily on Tornillo, there was no Court majority consensus as to rationale. Pacific Gas & Elec. v. Public Utilities Comm’n, 475 U.S. 1 (1986). See also Hurley v. Irish-American Gay Group, 514 U.S. 334 (1995) (state may not compel parade organizer to allow participation by a parade unit proclaiming message that organizer does not wish to endorse). back