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The Laws Governing the Media

Under the 1st Amendment, the freedom of the press is a fundamental liberty within the United States. Accordingly, courts and legislative bodies have had to tread lightly when seeking to regulate radio, television, newspaper and other media outlets.
Historically, media law has been divided into two areas: telecommunications and print sources (newspapers, periodicals, etc.). Regulation of the media is governed at both the state and federal levels.
At the federal level, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and foreign communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. Within the FCC, separate bureaus regulate different components of the media:

  • The Media Bureau regulates amplitude and frequency modulation, low-power television, direct broadcast satellite, and regulates cable television.
  • The Wireline Competition 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.

The growth of the Internet and digital media more generally have begun to blur the boundaries between media segments. In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to deal with Internet issues and the advanced technologies used to bypass copy protection devices.

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