The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Monday upheld [opinion, PDF] a federal law [text] that prohibits corporate and campaign advertising on public radio and television. In a 9-2 ruling the court held that such advertisements threatened the educational missions of public media, and that the government has a substantial interest in preserving the "essence of public broadcast programming." The court overruled an earlier decision, reasoning:
Public television—a fixture of American life for decades—has showcased Masterpiece Theater, PBS, NewsHour, children's programs such as Sesame Street and Curious George, and many more audience favorites. The hallmark of public broadcasting has been a longstanding restriction on paid advertising to minimize commercialization. In a classic case of "follow the money," Congress recognized that advertising would change the character of public broadcast programming and undermine the intended distinction between commercial and noncommercial broadcasting.The court rejected arguments by Minority Television Project Inc. (MTPI), a nonprofit group that was fined $10,000 for airing promotional ads on its public television station [website], that broadcast speech should receive the same deference that the US Supreme Court gave to speech-related elections in Citizens United [JURIST report]. MTPI brought the suit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The court said that Citizens United was not broadcast regulation, but it was about the validity of a statute banning political speech by corporations.