Celebrating "The Language of America"
Can you imagine a world without free speech? While many Americans are proud of their First Amendment, it’s a safe bet that many of us take for granted the free speech that constitutional Amendment ensures.
Imagine a world in which authors, bloggers, script writers, producers, directors, poets, songwriters, and other creators of content had to censor the expression of their thoughts, or could be held liable by some governing body for thinking that might be inconsistent with that of the governing class.
Imagine the potential impact of speech censorship on your own behavior, each time you prepared to tweet, blog, post content on Facebook or Instagram, or attempted to post or publish anything for public consumption.
These scenarios are anathema to our American culture, though, sadly, they are conditions that exist in many parts of the world outside of Western democracies.
That’s why NCTA joins with a wide variety of associations, organizations, colleges and universities this week in celebrating Free Speech Week 2015. A project of The Media Institute, a nonprofit research foundation specializing in communications policy issues, Free Speech Week is a yearly event to raise public awareness of the importance of free speech in our democracy, and to celebrate that freedom.
Why are we supporters of this movement? For one thing, the cable and telecommunications industry has been built on free speech. Very few of the thousands of programs and hundreds of channels that comprise our industry’s content could exist today without assurances of free speech. And to a great degree, even the companies that distribute this content to you – cable systems, telephone companies, satellite distributors, and streaming media providers – benefit from free speech in their ability to package and sell to you this vast spectrum of content.
The Internet is both the new platform and battlefield for free speech. Scholars, practitioners, and pundits are watching closely to see if the vast expression offered by digital media will nourish our free speech tradition, create a backlash that might curtail our abilities to practice free speech, or something in between. Once again, as our world changes, we test a Constitutional right to see how it stands up amid new technologies, new traditions, new culture. While the jury is still out on how digital media will affect our tradition of free speech – and the laws that govern it – we suspect the advent of digital communications and social media will only reinforce the sentiment of our national founders, that speech and ideas should flow freely in order to strengthen our democracy.
How do you feel about today’s environment for free speech? Let us know with your comments. Post or blog your thoughts on it. Download and use this Free Speech Week social media badge. Use the hash tag #FreedomSpeaks when you offer any observations. Check out this page on the Free Speech Week website to find other ways to celebrate our free speech. Help us show why free speech truly is “the language of America.”