Freedom of the press is a fundamental liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. As such, courts and legislative bodies have been hesitant to impinge on that freedom. In fact, numerous state and federal statutes seek to ensure the full extent of the guarantee of the First Amendment, including the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act.
Historically, media law has been divided into two areas: telecommunications and print sources (e.g., newspapers, periodicals). Both federal and state laws govern these areas. The Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and foreign communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.
Under the FCC, the Media Bureau regulates amplitude and frequency modulation, low-power television, direct-broadcast satellite and cable television. The Common Carrier Bureau regulates telephone and cable facilities. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau administers all domestic commercial and private wireless telecommunications programs and policies. The International Bureau manages all international programs. In a sweeping overhaul of the Communications Act of 1934, Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to deregulate the industry and encourage competition.
The growth of the Internet and digital media has blurred the boundaries between these media segments. In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to address the Internet and the advanced technologies used to bypass copy-protection devices.
Last update: Oct. 1, 2008
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