With the explosion of access to and use of the internet, there has been a tremendous upheaval in the traditional fields in media law, which has historically focused on government regulation and constitutional protections in print media and telecommunications, the latter of which became subject to federal regulation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1934 ("broadcast regulation") and which was overhauled by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 designed to deregulate the industry and encourage competition. About the same time, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act of 1996, attempting to regulate access to and the content of internet (on-line) medium, subsequently declared unconstitutional in Reno v. ACLU (1997).
Both of those Acts addressed two fundamental aspects of media law: regulation of the medium by which information is carried (newspapers, radio, television, cable, internet) and regulation of the content thereby communicated (e.g. political campaigning, commercial advertising, libelous or harassing content, content inappropriate for children, etc.) which have been the subject of an evolution of constitutional doctrine and legal precedent under the free speech and free press clauses of the First Amendment. Because the internet provides an unparalleled open and accessible (and pervasive) forum for expression, it raises serious new constitutional questions regarding whether to/how to regulate this medium and/or its content in the public interest without constraining constitutionally-protected expression and the free flow of ideas and information in our democracy. As with previous types of broadcasting, it has proven difficult to regulate the medium without constraining content that flows over it.
Neither telecommunications law or the broader field of media law is a traditional field of emphasis in law schools. While all law schools cover some aspects of media law in their core course in Constitutional Law and provide some third-year specialty courses in selected areas (such as First Amendment), several law schools now collaborate with noted graduate schools in Journalism and Mass Communications to provide a broader range of more focused course offerings, certificates of specialization, and/or joint degree (JD/MA) programs. These collaborations have often spawned centers or institutes in media law and/or telecommunications, and a number of journals that contribute focused scholarship in the area. So, while it is difficult to identify 'top ranked' law schools in media and/or telecommunications law, it is possible to identify law schools that (a) offer emphases in this area, (b) house centers or institutes contributing to the discussion in the field,, and/or host journals related to the field, broadly speaking.
That information is compiled below, along with several categories of links students who might be interested in media law should explore. Students should be aware that media law usually focuses on mass communications media, including the print and spoken word traditionally defined, while telecommunications law tends to focus on the impact of technology on access to and regulation of communication spectra, including the internet.