Press Freedom Under the Recovery Program

November 4, 1933

Report Outline
The Free Press Clause in the Newspaper Code
Freedom of the Press and the Newspaper Code
The Struggle to Maintain a Free Press in America
Threats to Freedom of the Press Since the War

The Free Press Clause in the Newspaper Code

At the outset of their conferences with the Recovery Administration on a code of fair competition for daily newspapers, the publishers made clear their intention to do everything possible to protect the press from the threat of licensing inherent in the provisions of the National Recovery Act. However remote the possibility of an encroachment on the freedom of the press from this source, they considered it essential that the newspaper code make explicit reservation of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Although General Johnson originally opposed this demand, the temporary code approved on August 15, 1933, contained a clause wherein the publishers gave notice that in subscribing to the code they did not waive any of their constitutional rights.

Inclusion of such a clause in the final code, now pending, appears certain in view of a statement by Lindsay Rogers, the N. R. A. deputy administrator who presided over the hearings on the newspaper code, in an address before the United Typothetae of America at Chicago on October 26. Although he declared that there was no challenge to the freedom of the press in the national recovery program and that mention of the question in the code was unnecessary, since freedom of the press was guaranteed by the Constitution, Rogers added that “if publishers will feel more secure with such a declaration in their code, then they should have it.”

The agreement under which daily newspapers have been operating for nearly three months is the only code of fair competition so far approved to contain what amounts to a protest against use of the licensing power extended to the President by Congress. Its peculiarity in this regard naturally derives from the fact that newspapers, while subject to the provisions of the National Recovery Act as an industry, occupy a position different from that of other industries, as signified by the special rights accorded them by the Constitution. Inclusion of the freedom of the press clause in the temporary code in no way committed the President not to impose licenses on the newspapers in an extremity, but its acceptance under the circumstances constituted recognition of the special position of the press, while the publishers put themselves squarely on record in the matter.

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