I know what the mistake is that people make who claim a constitutional infringement for Sinclair’s directive that its stations read a statement about “fake news” and their commitment to provide news that’s confirmed and reliable — read locally by our own Liz Bishop. But what am I missing?
I heard the statement as read and believe it to be saying to people to consider the source, make sure that it’s reliable, and that the stations would only present confirmed facts and attempt to do so without bias. What did I miss?
What those who claim a constitutional infringement missed is that the “free speech” constitutional protection is a prohibition against the government limiting speech, not speech in the private sector. Sure, Sinclair is licensed to use the airwaves, but that does not make the company an arm of the government. Sinclair can direct its employees to speak or not speak, just as an employer can hire or fire for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all (unless the reason is discriminatory or violates an employment contract).
Freedom of speech isn’t a license to say or not say whatever you please. Nor does it shield you from the fallout from people who don’t like what you say. Freedom of speech isn’t a prohibition against a private-sector employer directing its staff or subsidiaries from taking and stating its position.
BRUCE S. TRACHTENBERG
The writer is a former town justice.
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Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion