Media Law and Policy Research

  • Associate professor Michael Hoefges' research interests include First Amendment commercial and corporate speech issues, freedom of information, commercial access to government records and databases, privacy law for advertisers and marketers, class action notice plans, and advertising and marketing regulation for various products and services including alcohol and tobacco products, gambling, licensed professional services, and regulated drugs and medical devices. He is currently studying the constitutionality of newly proposed U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules to restrict tobacco advertising. In addition, he is researching the Supreme Court's First Amendment commercial speech doctrine and how courts evaluate the substantiality of governmental interests in constitutional challenges to advertising restrictions.
  • Professor and faculty director of the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy Cathy Packer has studied the recent Congressional testimony and debate of a proposed federal shield law. If passed, the law would give journalists a limited right to refuse to reveal confidential sources. Two-thirds of states have enacted shield laws, but no similar protection exists in the federal courts. Packer analyzed the 2005-08 Congressional debate of a federal shield law, and her research was published in the Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal. Packer’s research finds that much of the testimony at the Congressional hearings has focused on issues of how power should be distributed among the branches of government and the media. Also, members of Congress and others who testified at the hearings appeared to disagree about the context of the power arrangements. To the Justice Department and other shield law opponents, the post-9/11 terrorist threat was the most important contextual consideration. The media and other shield law supporters instead focused primarily on the current uncertainty in reporter's privilege law, the numbers of journalists incarcerated for refusing to comply with federal subpoenas, and the resulting chilling effect on the media.
  • Blog researchMirroring trends in the print media, the political blogosphere is dominated by male bloggers who tend to be more popular and influential than their female counterparts despite a near-parity in numbers. Using feminist standpoint theory, professor Anne Johnston, assistant professor Barbara Friedman and graduate student Sara Peach are studying women’s political commentary among the top blogs. They are identifying what topics women write about and looking at how they write about them. In addition, the researchers reject the notion that there are few women with political opinions, using alternate ratings methods to identify popular women’s political blogs and the issues discussed on those blogs.