An electronic First Amendment

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The law today does not extend to electronic communication the same First Amendment protection extended to print communication. The government today says it has the right to control the electronic media -- by licensing and by content. Given that situation, what should be our response to the technological revolution in communications?

We have -- essentially -- three choices:

First, we may elect to do nothing -- to follow the path that we are on, to wait and see what this new revolution brings. This course would let events, and the Federal Communications Commission and the Congress and the courts work their will until we can know -- by actual experience -- whether freedom of expression and all that hangs upon its fate will survive.

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Second, we may decide that this new revolution is too frightening, that conditions have changed too much to retain our cherished first Amendment freedoms. We may decide to throw away our heritage and let the government step in to regulate all our methods of communication -- old and new.

Or third, we may conclude that our freedom of expression is so precious and basic a freedom that it can continue to be entrusted only to the people themselves through our Constitution and its amendments.

Today we must ask whether the First Amendment as written is sufficient to ensure -- now and into the future -- full freedom of expression. The answer is self-evident, and it is - no.

The answer is ''no'' for this reason: the government has taken upon itself, with the full approval of the courts, to do what the founders of the nation denied themselves -- the power to regulate freedom of expression.

Free expression, to be free, must be just that -- free. And it cannot be free when government assumes for itself, or is granted, the power to regulate it, in the name of technological necessity, or for any other reason.

I do not propose scrapping the First Amendment. Instead I urge us to enlarge its guarantees to embrace the full freedom of communication without which no other liberties are secure.

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