Censorship of broadcasting in the United States

Although freedom of the press is guaranteed by the United States Constitution, it is not absolute. The government has the right to control or censor broadcasting on the grounds of national security and to prevent offense. This was specifically demonstrated in December 19, 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Office of Censorship days before the United States officially entered World War II. This agency had broad powers, including the right to shut down offending radio stations.[1] A Supreme Court ruling (New York Times vs. United States, 1971) underscored the right of the state to override the First Amendment guarantees against prior restraint such as the reporting on troop movements and other military activities if it constitutes "clear and present danger" to U.S. national security.[2]

A more frequent form of censorship on the part of the government involves the so-called de-facto censorship, which entails withholding of information, denying or limiting access to the news, or selectively leaking information or disinformation.[3] There is also the case of the concept of self-censorship wherein the broadcast media choose to withhold materials for broadcast on their own. This can be demonstrated after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when broadcast outlets refrained from airing information they considered sensitive or those that aid terrorists.[4]

Court cases

Specific cases


See also


  1. Karsten, Peter (2006). Encyclopedia of War and American Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. p. 603. ISBN 0761930973.
  2. Turow, Joseph (2011). Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Routledge. p. 83. ISBN 9780415876070.
  3. Samuels, Richard (2006). Encyclopedia of United States National Security, Volume 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. p. 397. ISBN 0761929274.
  4. Gottfried, Ted (2006). Censorship. New York: Marshall Cavendish. p. 74. ISBN 9780761418832.
  5. David Hinckley (2009-01-23). "Z100 needs Britney Spears to clean up". Daily News. Mortimer Zuckerman. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
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