ARKANSAS ED. TELEVISION COMM. v. FORBES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
96-779
Petitioner 
Arkansas Ed. Television Comm.
Respondent 
Forbes
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(On behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

During the 1992 race for Arkansas' Third Congressional District, the Arkansas Educational Television Commission (AETC) -- a state-owned public television broadcaster -- sponsored a debate between the major party candidates. Running as an independent candidate with little popular support, Ralph Forbes sought to participate in the debate but was denied permission. After unsuccessfully challenging AETC's refusal in district court, Forbes appealed and won a reversal. AETC then appealed and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Question 

Is the exclusion of a ballot-qualified candidate from a debate sponsored by a state-owned public television broadcaster a violation of the candidate's First Amendment right to freedom of speech?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Arkansas Ed. Television Comm., 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

No. In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court held that public broadcasters could selectively exclude participants from their sponsored debates, so long as these were not designed as "public forums." The Court found that by reserving participation rights only to candidates for a particular congressional district, rather then hosting an open-microphone format, and selecting among those which were eligible to participate, based on objective indications of their popular support rather then their view points, AETC's debate was a "nonpublic forum." As such, AETC could decide who should and should not participate in its sponsored event.

Cite this Page
ARKANSAS ED. TELEVISION COMM. v. FORBES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_779>.
ARKANSAS ED. TELEVISION COMM. v. FORBES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_779 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"ARKANSAS ED. TELEVISION COMM. v. FORBES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_779.