Central Hudson (1980): This case narrowed the First Am.
protection that commercial speech was given in Virginia Pharmacy. It
provided a formal four-part test to determine whether or not a given
regulation of commercial speech violated the First Am., thus giving
the government more power to regulate purely commercial speech beyond
just time, manner, place restrictions and false advertising
restrictions. In this case, the New York State Public Service
Commission (PSC) banned all “promotional ads” by electric utilities.
The stated purpose of the ban was to conserve energy (because NY had
an energy shortage that year), and the PSC claimed that the electric
utilities’ ads were designed to promote energy use. Two years after
the energy crisis ended, the PSC, based on comments from the public,
continued the ban on ads. But while it did not allow “promotional
ads,” it did allow “information ads” designed to encourage shifts of
consumption from peak demand times to periods of low consumption.
The electric utility companies brought suit, claiming they had a
First Am. to have promotional ads. Did the PSC’s band violate the
utility companies’ First Am. rights?
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