Public Attitudes Toward Freedom of the Press.
This article presents findings on a study of public attitudes toward the rights and responsibilities of the media. Public thinking about freedom of the press appears to be dominated by a principle of fairness. Specifically, people want and expect the communications media to provide equal coverage to opposing political candidates and to present both sides of controversial issues. Despite other studies showing a lack of political tolerance, the public is willing to permit considerable diversity in the points of view that are presented in the media. Although the public rejects many proposals for censorship laws, it does support “fairness-enhancing” laws. The authors hypothesize that the public's perspective on freedom of the press grows out of its role as listeners rather than as speakers.