UCLA Entertainment Law Review
Social Science, Media Effects & The Supreme Court: Is Communication Research Relevant After Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association?
- Author(s): Calvert, Clay
- Bunker, Matthew D.
- Bissell, Kimberly
- et al.
This article examines the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's
2011 ruling in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association for the
future use of social science evidence and communication research to
supply legislative facts supporting laws that target harms allegedly
caused by media artifacts. The Brown majority set the bar for the
relevance of social science evidence exceedingly high - perhaps too
high, the article suggests - while Justice Stephen Breyer, in contrast,
adopted a much more deferential approach in a dissent that embraced
the evidence proffered by California. The article also reveals an
apparent inconsistency in Justice Antonin Scalia's approach to social
evidence when comparing his majority opinion in Brown against his
opinion just two years earlier in Federal Communications Commission
v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. Ultimately, the article asserts that
communication scientists hoping to influence both legislative bodies
and jurists should view Brown as a wake-up call to do two things: 1)
educate lawmakers and jurists about whether and when social science
research can adequately resolve complex questions about media-caused
harms; and 2) jettison research that lacks real-world generalizability
and legal relevance.