Who gets to debate | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Who gets to debate

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2006 at 2:27 PM

Hoglawyer, our new legal blog, examines the question of exclusion of candidates from political debates. As you might know, an Arkansas case -- arising from AETN's exclusioni of wingnut Ralph Forbes from a televised debate -- created benchmark law with language relevant to the recent complaining about appearance of two of the four gubernatorial candidates in debates held on a college campus. Ironically, AETN this year is willing to allow all comers when it had earlier excluded Forbes, a decision the U.S.Supreme Court upheld. Justice Kennedy wrote:

Much like a university selecting a commencement speaker, a public institution selecting speakers for a lecture series, or a public school prescribing its curriculum, a broadcaster by its nature will facilitate the expression of some viewpoints instead of others. Were the judiciary to require, and so to define and approve, pre-established criteria for access, it would risk implicating the courts in judgments that should be left to the exercise of journalistic discretion.

The wrinkle in A$a! v. Beebe is that the location and rules were set by the candidates, not a news organization. But you could infer broad latitude by public institutions in who they allow to use their facilities for speeches/debates/etc.


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