EDITORIAL: Keeping Watch on Free Speech 

EDITORIAL: Keeping Watch on Free Speech 
Posted by FoM on February 08, 2000 at 07:39:03 PT
Staff Editorial, Michigan Daily U. Michigan
Source: U-WIRE
 In a victory for radio enthusiasts nationwide, the Federal Communications Commission created new rules for the use of pirate radio or Low Power FM radio last month. LPFM radio works at a lower wattage than FM radio stations and broadcasts over a radius of about seven miles. The FCC will only permit use of LPFM for non-commercial uses. 
Previously, the FCC saw micro-radios as a problem and frequently raided the homes of pirate broadcasters and prosecuted them under strict federal broadcasting laws. The adoption of the new LFPM rules allows many more Americans to broadcast their opinions to a wide audience. Any law or rule that broadens and strengthens the scope of First Amendment rights ought to be welcomed. Legalizing LPFM will give more individual citizens the opportunity to express themselves. The Internet has become the new medium for speaking and investigating the world, but maintaining an Internet site can be costly. LPFM provides a cheaper alternative to the Internet. Even in light of these types of promising developments, the right to speak freely should never be taken for granted. There have been and continue to be government intrusions on citizens' First Amendment rights in the name of some sort of "greater good." The clarification on the White House guidelines for anti-drug program is a good example of how censors attempt to protect citizens from themselves. Last month, the White House was forced to make changes to its anti-drug initiative. The response came after it was reported that the federal government used financial incentives to get the major television networks to include anti-drug messages in their shows and sometimes even edited and revised scripts before programs aired. This type of government manipulation is indefensible. Television should not be a forum moderated by the federal government. The thought of a bureaucrat censoring the content of episodes of Seinfeld and Friends ought to appall anyone who values their First Amendment rights, regardless of their stance on the value of the drug war. Free speech is currently under fire in Oregon in the name of "good taste." A controversy arose when the video version of the book the "Final Exit" by Derek Humphrey was broadcast on public access television. Humphrey founded the Hemlock Society, the oldest and largest right-to-die organization. The video was meant to bring awareness to attempts by the federal government to continue the prohibition of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon. Legalizing LPFM radio may not enable individuals to reach listeners for miles and miles, but it is still a victory for free speech amid continual efforts to silence individuals and causes. Grass roots censorship movements like the one against the Hemlock Society's broadcast or the effort to ban Harry Potter from libraries will probably never die off. It is equally unlikely that governments will put an end to their own censorship efforts. Given that free speech will always be under attack, any law protecting and extending it, sweeping or not, deserves support. Published: February 7, 2000 (U-WIRE) Ann Arbor, Mich. (C) 2000 Michigan Daily via U-WIRE Human Rights For The World's Drug Users
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