What Is the First Amendment Protection ?

The "heart of the First Amendment's protection" lies in " 'the liberty to discuss publicly and truthfully all matters of public concern . . . . Freedom of discussion, if it would fulfill its historic function in this nation, must embrace all issues about which information is needed or appropriate to enable the members of society to cope with the exigencies of their period.' " (First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978) 435 U.S. 765, 776, 55 L. Ed. 2d 707, 98 S. Ct. 1407, 55 L. Ed. 2d 707, quoting Thornhill v. Alabama (1940) 310 U.S. 88, 101-102, 84 L. Ed. 1093, 60 S. Ct. 736.) In crafting this much quoted language, the Thornhill court noted that the "exigencies" of the colonial period which gave birth to the First Amendment, centered around freedom from oppressive administration of government, but, in the industrial society of 1940, the same constitutionally protected "area of free discussion" embraced the dissemination of information about labor disputes. (Thornhill v. Alabama, supra, at p. 102; see also Va. Pharmacy Bd. v. Va. Consumer Council, supra, 425 U.S. at pp. 762-763, fn. 17; Spiritual Psychic Science Church v. City of Azusa, supra, 39 Cal. 3d at p. 511.) By the same logic, the labor practices of foreign contractors of domestic companies come within the "exigencies" of our times. The question of possible rights to be accorded to advertising or public relations devoted to enhancement of a corporate image may revolve around issues of property rights, rather than First Amendment protections, where the speech lacks "intrinsic meaning" or public interest. (Friedman v. Rogers (1979) 440 U.S. 1, 12, 59 L. Ed. 2d 100, 99 S. Ct. 887; see also Central Hudson Gas & Elec. v. Public Serv. Comm'n, supra, 447 U.S. at p. 580 (conc. opn. of Stevens, J.).)