Federal Communications Law Journal

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Publication Citation

52 Federal Communications Law Journal 687 (2000)


In Arkansas Education Television Commission v. Forbes, the Supreme Court of the United States held that a state-owned public station did not violate the First Amendment in excluding a third-party candidate from a political debate organized and broadcast by the television station because the debate was a nonpublic forum. In this Article, Professor Youm examines the constitutional and statutory framework on the access for political candidates to TV debates, the judicial interpretations of the political candidates' claim for access to public television debates, and the Supreme Court's balancing in Forbes of the conflicts between the candidates' access rights and the public broadcast media's editorial freedom. Professor Youm concludes that the Supreme Court in Forbes has resolved various issues arising from several lower court rulings on the public television stations' right to exclude minor-party candidates from political candidates. He argues, however, that the Supreme Court has failed to set forth a functional guideline on accommodating public broadcasters' independent news judgement with candidates' right to participate in a state-sponsored television debate. Consequently, Forbes has left lower courts searching for a working guide on how to determine when public broadcasting should be open to minor-party candidates as some type of forum.