Federal Communications Law Journal

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47 Federal Communications Law Journal 535 (1995)


Although many may not be aware of it; the .technological capability currently exists to launch large, billboard-type advertisements into outer space. These ads could be as large as a full moon, and last for an almost infinite duration. Reaction to the possibility of space advertising has been generally negative, with many expressing concerns about the aesthetic effect of floating space billboards. One recent example of this is the proposal to launch a billboard containing the five-ring Olympic symbol in connection with Atlanta's hosting the 1996 Olympics, which was rejected by Mayor Maynard Jackson as "environmental pollution." Despite the fact that space advertising is a very real possibility for the near future, the legal framework under which regulation of that advertising would be analyzed is unsettled. A bill which would ban all space advertising was introduced in Congress, but was never acted upon.

Comparing a ban on space advertising to other regulations of commercial speech, the Authors analyze whether the proposed ban would withstand constitutional scrutiny under the commercial speech doctrine. They begin by tracing the development of the doctrine and examining the lesser position of commercial speech within the First Amendment hierarchy of protection. They then consider an application of the commercial speech doctrine to a ban on space advertising. Given that space might serve as a platform for other types of speech as well, the Authors examine how a ban on noncommercial speech in space might fare under constitutional scrutiny. Finally, they offer their respective conclusions, which range from qualified to absolute endorsement of restrictions on space advertising.