In the southeast portion of New York City's Central Park, about 10 blocks upward from the park's beginning point at 59th Street, there is an amphitheater and stage structure known as the Naumberg Acoustic Bandshell. The bandshell faces west across the remaining width of the park. In close proximity to the bandshell, and lying within the directional path of its sound, is a grassy open area called the Sheep Meadow. The city has designated the Sheep Meadow as a quiet area for passive recreations like reclining, walking, and reading. Just beyond the park, and also within the potential sound range of the bandshell, are the apartments and residences of Central Park West.
This case arises from the city's attempt to regulate the volume of amplified music at the bandshell so the performances are satisfactory to the audience without intruding upon those who use the Sheep Meadow or live on Central Park West and in its vicinity.
The city's regulation requires bandshell performers to use sound-amplification equipment and a sound technician provided by the city. The challenge to this volume control technique comes from the sponsor of a rock concert. The trial court sustained the noise control measures, but the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. We granted certiorari to resolve the important First Amendment issues presented by the case.
Rock Against Racism, respondent in this case, is an unincorporated association which, in its own words, is "dedicated to the espousal and promotion of antiracist views." App. to Pet. for Cert. 3. Each year from 1979 through 1986, RAR has sponsored a program of speeches and rock music at the
Over the years, the city received numerous complaints about excessive sound amplification at respondent's concerts from park users and residents of areas adjacent to the park. On some occasions RAR was less than cooperative when city officials asked that the volume be reduced; at one concert, police felt compelled to cut off the power to the sound system, an action that caused the audience to become unruly and hostile. App. 127-131, 140-141, 212-214, 345-347.
Before the 1984 concert, city officials met with RAR representatives to discuss the problem of excessive noise. It was decided that the city would monitor sound levels at the edge of the concert ground, and would revoke respondent's event permit if specific volume limits were exceeded. Sound levels at the concert did exceed acceptable levels for sustained periods of time, despite repeated warnings and requests that the volume be lowered. Two citations for excessive volume were issued to respondent during the concert. When the power was eventually shut off, the audience became abusive and disruptive.
The following year, when respondent sought permission to hold its upcoming concert at the bandshell, the city declined to grant an event permit, citing its problems with noise and crowd control at RAR's previous concerts. The city suggested some other city-owned facilities as alternative sites for the concert. RAR declined the invitation and filed suit in United States District Court against the city, its mayor, and various police and parks department officials, seeking an injunction directing issuance of an event permit. After respondent agreed to abide by all applicable regulations, the parties reached agreement and a permit was issued.
The city then undertook to develop comprehensive New York City Parks Department Use Guidelines for the Naumberg Bandshell. A principal problem to be addressed by
The city considered various solutions to the sound-amplification problem. The idea of a fixed decibel limit for all performers using the bandshell was rejected because the impact on listeners of a single decibel level is not constant, but varies in response to changes in air temperature, foliage, audience size, and like factors. Id., at 31, 220, 285-286. The city also rejected the possibility of employing a sound technician to operate the equipment provided by the various sponsors of bandshell events, because the city's technician might have had difficulty satisfying the needs of sponsors while operating unfamiliar, and perhaps inadequate, sound equipment. Id.,
The Use Guidelines were promulgated on March 21, 1986.
After the concert, respondent amended its complaint to seek damages and a declaratory judgment striking down the guidelines as facially invalid. After hearing five days of testimony about various aspects of the guidelines, the District Court issued its decision upholding the sound-amplification guideline.
Although the city's sound technician controlled both sound volume and sound mix by virtue of his position at the mixing board, the court found that "[t]he City's practice for events at the Bandshell is to give the sponsor autonomy with respect to the sound mix: balancing treble with bass, highlighting a particular instrument or voice, and the like," and that the city's sound technician "does all he can to accommodate the sponsor's desires in those regards." Ibid. Even with respect to volume control, the city's practice was to confer with the sponsor before making any decision to turn the volume down. Ibid. In some instances, as with a New York Grand Opera performance, the sound technician accommodated the performers' unique needs by integrating special microphones with the city's equipment. The court specifically found that "[t]he City's implementation of the Bandshell guidelines provides for a sound amplification system capable of meeting
The Court of Appeals reversed. 848 F.2d 367 (CA2 1988). After recognizing that "[c]ontent neutral time, place and manner regulations are permissible so long as they are narrowly tailored to serve a substantial government interest and do not unreasonably limit alternative avenues of expression," the court added the proviso that "the method and extent of such regulation must be reasonable, that is, it must be the least intrusive upon the freedom of expression as is reasonably necessary to achieve a legitimate purpose of the regulation." Id., at 370 (citing United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 377 (1968)). Applying this test, the court determined that the city's guideline was valid only to the extent necessary to achieve the city's legitimate interest in controlling excessive volume, but found there were various alternative means of controlling volume without also intruding on respondent's ability to control the sound mix. For example, the city could have directed respondent's sound technician to keep the volume below specified levels. Alternatively, a volume-limiting device could have been installed; and as a "last resort," the court suggested, "the plug can be pulled on the sound to enforce the volume limit." 848 F. 2d, at 372, n. 6. In view of the potential availability of these seemingly less restrictive alternatives, the Court of Appeals concluded that the sound-amplification guideline was invalid because the city had failed to prove that its regulation "was the least intrusive means of regulating the volume." Id., at 371.
We granted certiorari, 488 U.S. 816 (1988), to clarify the legal standard applicable to governmental regulation of the time, place, or manner of protected speech. Because the Court of Appeals erred in requiring the city to prove that its regulation was the least intrusive means of furthering its legitimate
Music is one of the oldest forms of human expression. From Plato's discourse in the Republic to the totalitarian state in our own times, rulers have known its capacity to appeal to the intellect and to the emotions, and have censored musical compositions to serve the needs of the state. See 2 Dialogues of Plato, Republic, bk. 3, pp. 231, 245-248 (B. Jowett transl., 4th ed. 1953) ("Our poets must sing in another and a nobler strain"); Musical Freedom and Why Dictators Fear It, N. Y. Times, Aug. 23, 1981, section 2, p. 1, col. 5; Soviet Schizophrenia toward Stravinsky, N. Y. Times, June 26, 1982, section 1, p. 25, col. 2; Symphonic Voice from China Is Heard Again, N. Y. Times, Oct. 11, 1987, section 2, p. 27, col. 1. The Constitution prohibits any like attempts in our own legal order. Music, as a form of expression and communication, is protected under the First Amendment. In the case before us the performances apparently consisted of remarks by speakers, as well as rock music, but the case has been presented as one in which the constitutional challenge is to the city's regulation of the musical aspects of the concert; and, based on the principle we have stated, the city's guideline must meet the demands of the First Amendment. The parties do not appear to dispute that proposition.
We need not here discuss whether a municipality which owns a bandstand or stage facility may exercise, in some circumstances, a proprietary right to select performances and control their quality. See Southeastern Promotions, Ltd. v. Conrad, 420 U.S. 546, 570-574 (1975) (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting). Though it did demonstrate its own interest in the effort to insure high quality performances by providing the equipment in question, the city justifies its guideline as a regulatory measure to limit and control noise. Here the bandshell was open, apparently, to all performers; and we decide
The principal inquiry in determining content neutrality, in speech cases generally and in time, place, or manner cases in particular, is whether the government has adopted a regulation of speech because of disagreement with the message it conveys. Community for Creative Non-Violence, supra, at 295. The government's purpose is the controlling consideration. A regulation that serves purposes unrelated to the content of expression is deemed neutral, even if it has an incidental effect on some speakers or messages but not others. See Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc., 475 U.S. 41, 47-48 (1986). Government regulation of expressive activity is content neutral so long as it is "justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech." Community for Creative Non-Violence, supra, at 293 (emphasis added); Heffron, supra, at 648 (quoting Virginia Pharmacy Bd., supra, at
The principal justification for the sound-amplification guideline is the city's desire to control noise levels at bandshell events, in order to retain the character of the Sheep Meadow and its more sedate activities, and to avoid undue intrusion into residential areas and other areas of the park. This justification for the guideline "ha[s] nothing to do with content," Boos v. Barry, supra, at 320, and it satisfies the requirement that time, place, or manner regulations be content neutral.
The only other justification offered below was the city's interest in "ensur[ing] the quality of sound at Bandshell events." 658 F. Supp., at 1352; see 848 F. 2d, at 370, n. 3. Respondent urges that this justification is not content neutral because it is based upon the quality, and thus the content, of the speech being regulated. In respondent's view, the city is seeking to assert artistic control over performers at the bandshell by enforcing a bureaucratically determined, value-laden conception of good sound. That all performers who have used the city's sound equipment have been completely satisfied is of no moment, respondent argues, because "[t]he First Amendment does not permit and cannot tolerate state control of artistic expression merely because the State claims that [its] efforts will lead to `top-quality' results." Brief for Respondent 19.
While respondent's arguments that the government may not interfere with artistic judgment may have much force in other contexts, they are inapplicable to the facts of this case. The city has disclaimed in express terms any interest in imposing its own view of appropriate sound mix on performers. To the contrary, as the District Court found, the city requires its sound technician to defer to the wishes of event sponsors concerning sound mix. 658 F. Supp., at 1352-1353. On this record, the city's concern with sound quality extends only to the clearly content-neutral goals of ensuring adequate
Respondent argues further that the guideline, even if not content based in explicit terms, is nonetheless invalid on its face because it places unbridled discretion in the hands of city officials charged with enforcing it. See Lakewood v. Plain Dealer Publishing Co., 486 U.S. 750, 769-772 (1988) (4-to-3 decision); Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc., supra, at 649; Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51, 56 (1965); Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 97 (1940). According to respondent, there is nothing in the language of the guideline to prevent city officials from selecting wholly inadequate sound equipment or technicians, or even from varying the volume and quality of sound based on the message being conveyed by the performers.
As a threshold matter, it is far from clear that respondent should be permitted to bring a facial challenge to this aspect of the regulation. Our cases permitting facial challenges to regulations that allegedly grant officials unconstrained authority to regulate speech have generally involved licensing schemes that "ves[t] unbridled discretion in a government official over whether to permit or deny expressive activity." Plain Dealer, supra, at 755. The grant of discretion that respondent
We need not decide, however, whether the "extraordinary doctrine" that permits facial challenges to some regulations of expression, see id., at 772 (WHITE, J., dissenting), should be extended to the circumstances of this case, for respondent's facial challenge fails on its merits. The city's guideline states that its goals are to "provide the best sound for all events" and to "insure appropriate sound quality balanced with respect for nearby residential neighbors and the mayorally decreed quiet zone of [the] Sheep Meadow." App. 375. While these standards are undoubtedly flexible, and the officials implementing them will exercise considerable discretion, perfect clarity and precise guidance have never been required even of regulations that restrict expressive activity. See Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 110 (1972) ("Condemned to the use of words, we can never expect mathematical certainty in our language"); see also Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77, 79 (1949) (rejecting vagueness challenge to city ordinance forbidding "loud and raucous" sound amplification) (opinion of Reed, J.). By its own terms the
Even if the language of the guideline were not sufficient on its face to withstand challenge, our ultimate conclusion would be the same, for the city has interpreted the guideline in such a manner as to provide additional guidance to the officials charged with its enforcement. The District Court expressly found that the city's policy is to defer to the sponsor's desires concerning sound quality. 658 F. Supp., at 1352. With respect to sound volume, the city retains ultimate control, but city officials "mak[e] it a practice to confer with the sponsor if any questions of excessive sound arise, before taking any corrective action." Ibid. The city's goal of ensuring that "the sound amplification [is] sufficient to reach all listeners within the defined concertground," ibid., serves to limit further the discretion of the officials on the scene. Administrative interpretation and implementation of a regulation are, of course, highly relevant to our analysis, for "[i]n evaluating a facial
The city's regulation is also "narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest." Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U. S., at 293. Despite respondent's protestations to the contrary, it can no longer be doubted that government "ha[s] a substantial interest in protecting its citizens from unwelcome noise." City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789, 806 (1984) (citing Kovacs v. Cooper, supra); see Grayned, supra, at 116. This interest is perhaps at its greatest when government seeks to protect " `the well-being, tranquility, and privacy of the home,' " Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U. S., at 484 (quoting Carey v. Brown, 447 U.S. 455, 471 (1980)), but it is by no means limited to that context, for the government may act to protect even such traditional public forums as city streets and parks from excessive noise. Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U. S., at 86-87 (opinion of Reed, J.); id., at 96-97 (Frankfurter, J., concurring); id., at 97 (Jackson, J., concurring); see Community for Creative Non-Violence, supra, at 296 (recognizing the government's "substantial interest in maintaining the parks . . . in an attractive and intact condition, readily available to the millions of people who wish to see and enjoy them").
We think it also apparent that the city's interest in ensuring the sufficiency of sound amplification at bandshell events is a substantial one. The record indicates that inadequate
The Court of Appeals recognized the city's substantial interest in limiting the sound emanating from the bandshell. See 848 F. 2d, at 370. The court concluded, however, that the city's sound-amplification guideline was not narrowly tailored to further this interest, because "it has not [been] shown . . . that the requirement of the use of the city's sound system and technician was the least intrusive means of regulating the volume." Id., at 371 (emphasis added). In the court's judgment, there were several alternative methods of achieving the desired end that would have been less restrictive of respondent's First Amendment rights.
The Court of Appeals erred in sifting through all the available or imagined alternative means of regulating sound volume in order to determine whether the city's solution was "the least intrusive means" of achieving the desired end. This "less-restrictive-alternative analysis . . . has never been a part of the inquiry into the validity of a time, place, and manner regulation." Regan v. Time, Inc., 468 U.S. 641, 657 (1984) (opinion of WHITE, J.). Instead, our cases quite clearly hold that restrictions on the time, place, or manner of protected speech are not invalid "simply because there is some imaginable alternative that might be less burdensome on speech." United States v. Albertini, 472 U.S. 675, 689 (1985).
The Court of Appeals apparently drew its least-intrusive-means requirement from United States v. O'Brien, 391 U. S., at 377, the case in which we established the standard for judging the validity of restrictions on expressive conduct. See 848 F. 2d, at 370. The court's reliance was misplaced,
Lest any confusion on the point remain, we reaffirm today that a regulation of the time, place, or manner of protected speech must be narrowly tailored to serve the government's legitimate, content-neutral interests but that it need not be the least restrictive or least intrusive means of doing so.
It is undeniable that the city's substantial interest in limiting sound volume is served in a direct and effective way by the requirement that the city's sound technician control the mixing board during performances. Absent this requirement, the city's interest would have been served less well, as is evidenced by the complaints about excessive volume generated by respondent's past concerts. The alternative regulatory methods hypothesized by the Court of Appeals reflect nothing more than a disagreement with the city over how much control of volume is appropriate or how that level of control is to be achieved. See Community for Creative Non-Violence, supra, at 299. The Court of Appeals erred in failing to defer to the city's reasonable determination that its interest in controlling volume would be best served by requiring bandshell performers to utilize the city's sound technician.
The city's second content-neutral justification for the guideline, that of ensuring "that the sound amplification [is] sufficient to reach all listeners within the defined concert-ground,"
Respondent nonetheless argues that the sound-amplification guideline is not narrowly tailored because, by placing control of sound mix in the hands of the city's technician, the guideline sweeps far more broadly than is necessary to further the city's legitimate concern with sound volume. According to respondent, the guideline "targets . . . more than the exact source of the `evil' it seeks to remedy." Frisby v. Schultz, supra, at 485.
If the city's regulatory scheme had a substantial deleterious effect on the ability of bandshell performers to achieve the quality of sound they desired, respondent's concerns would have considerable force. The District Court found,
The final requirement, that the guideline leave open ample alternative channels of communication, is easily met. Indeed, in this respect the guideline is far less restrictive than regulations we have upheld in other cases, for it does not attempt to ban any particular manner or type of expression at a given place or time. Cf. Frisby, supra, at 482-484; Community for Creative Non-Violence, supra, at 295; Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc., 475 U. S., at 53-54. Rather, the guideline continues to permit expressive activity in the bandshell, and has no effect on the quantity or content of that expression beyond regulating the extent of amplification. That the city's limitations on volume may reduce to some degree the potential audience for respondent's speech is of no consequence, for there has been no showing that the remaining avenues of communication are inadequate. See Taxpayers
The city's sound-amplification guideline is narrowly tailored to serve the substantial and content-neutral governmental interests of avoiding excessive sound volume and providing sufficient amplification within the bandshell concert ground, and the guideline leaves open ample channels of communication. Accordingly, it is valid under the First Amendment as a reasonable regulation of the place and manner of expression. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
JUSTICE BLACKMUN concurs in the result.
JUSTICE MARSHALL, with whom JUSTICE BRENNAN and JUSTICE STEVENS join, dissenting.
No one can doubt that government has a substantial interest in regulating the barrage of excessive sound that can plague urban life. Unfortunately, the majority plays to our shared impatience with loud noise to obscure the damage that it does to our First Amendment rights. Until today, a key safeguard of free speech has been government's obligation to adopt the least intrusive restriction necessary to achieve its goals. By abandoning the requirement that time, place, and manner regulations must be narrowly tailored, the majority replaces constitutional scrutiny with mandatory deference. The majority's willingness to give government officials a free hand in achieving their policy ends extends so far as to permit, in this case, government control of speech in advance of its dissemination. Because New York City's Use Guidelines (Guidelines) are not narrowly tailored to serve its interest in regulating loud noise, and because they constitute an impermissible prior restraint, I dissent.
The majority sets forth the appropriate standard for assessing the constitutionality of the Guidelines. A time, place, and manner regulation of expression must be content neutral, serve a significant government interest, be narrowly tailored to serve that interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication. See Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474, 481-482 (1988); Perry Education Assn. v. Perry Local Educators' Assn., 460 U.S. 37, 44 (1983). The Guidelines indisputably are content neutral as they apply to all bandshell users irrespective of the message of their music. App. 375; see Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Utilities Comm'n of Cal., 475 U.S. 1, 20 (1985).
My complaint is with the majority's serious distortion of the narrow tailoring requirement. Our cases have not, as the majority asserts, "clearly" rejected a less-restrictive-alternative test. Ante, at 797. On the contrary, just last Term, we held that a statute is narrowly tailored only "if it targets and eliminates no more than the exact source of the `evil' it seeks to remedy." Frisby v. Schultz, supra, at 485. While there is language in a few opinions which, taken out of
True, the majority states that "[g]overnment may not regulate expression in such a manner that a substantial portion of the burden on speech does not serve to advance its goals." Ibid. But this means that only those regulations that "engage in the gratuitous inhibition of expression" will be invalidated. Ely, Flag Desecration: A Case Study in the Roles of Categorization and Balancing in First Amendment Analysis, 88 Harv. L. Rev. 1482, 1485 (1975). Moreover, the majority has robbed courts of the necessary analytic tools to make even this limited inquiry. The Court of Appeals examined "how much control of volume is appropriate [and] how that level of control is to be achieved," ante, at 800, but the majority admonishes that court for doing so, stating that it should
Had the majority not abandoned the narrow tailoring requirement, the Guidelines could not possibly survive constitutional scrutiny. Government's interest in avoiding loud sounds cannot justify giving government total control over sound equipment, any more than its interest in avoiding litter could justify a ban on handbill distribution. In both cases, government's legitimate goals can be effectively and less intrusively served by directly punishing the evil — the persons responsible for excessive sounds and the persons who litter. Indeed, the city concedes that it has an ordinance generally limiting noise but has chosen not to enforce it. See Tr. of Oral. Arg. 5-6.
By holding that the Guidelines are valid time, place, and manner restrictions, notwithstanding the availability of less intrusive but effective means of controlling volume, the majority deprives the narrow tailoring requirement of all meaning.
The majority's conclusion that the city's exclusive control of sound equipment is constitutional is deeply troubling for another reason. It places the Court's imprimatur on a quintessential prior restraint, incompatible with fundamental First Amendment values. See Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U.S. 697 (1931). Indeed, just as "[m]usic is one of the oldest forms of human expression," ante, at 790, the city's regulation is one of the oldest forms of speech repression. In 16th- and 17th-century England, government controlled speech through its monopoly on printing presses. See L. Levy, Emergence of a Free Press 6 (1985). Here, the city controls the volume and mix of sound through its monopoly on sound equipment. In both situations, government's exclusive control of the means of communication enables public officials to censor speech in advance of its expression. See Southeastern Promotions, Ltd. v. Conrad, 420 U.S. 546, 553 (1975). Under more familiar prior restraints, government officials censor speech "by a simple stroke of the pen," Emerson, The Doctrine of Prior Restraint, 20 Law & Contemp. Prob. 648, 657 (1955). Here, it is done by a single turn of a knob.
The majority's implication that government control of sound equipment is not a prior restraint because city officials do not "enjoy unguided discretion to deny the right to speak altogether," ante, at 794, is startling. In the majority's view, this case involves a question of "different and lesser" magnitude — the discretion to provide inadequate sound for performers. But whether the city denies a performer a bandshell permit or grants the permit and then silences or
As a system of prior restraint, the Guidelines are presumptively invalid. See Southeastern Promotions, supra, at 558; Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58, 70 (1963). They may be constitutional only if accompanied by the procedural safeguards necessary "to obviate the dangers of a censorship system." Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51, 58 (1965). The city must establish neutral criteria embodied in "narrowly drawn, reasonable and definite standards," in order to ensure that discretion is not exercised based on the content of speech. Niemotko v. Maryland, 340 U.S. 268, 271 (1951); see also Lakewood v. Plain Dealer Publishing Co., 486 U.S. 750, 758 (1988); Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, 394 U.S. 147, 150-151 (1969). Moreover, there must be "an almost immediate judicial determination" that the restricted material was unprotected by the First Amendment. Bantam Books, supra, at 70; see also Southeastern Promotions, supra, at 560.
The Guidelines contain neither of these procedural safeguards. First, there are no "narrowly drawn, reasonable and definite standards" guiding the hands of the city's sound technician as he mixes the sound. The Guidelines state that the goals are "to provide the best sound for all events" and to "insure appropriate sound quality balanced with respect for nearby residential neighbors and the mayorally decreed quiet zone." App. 375; see also ante, at 794. But the city never defines "best sound" or "appropriate sound quality." The bandshell program director-manager testified that quality of
The majority concedes that the standards in the Guidelines are "undoubtedly flexible" and that "the officials implementing them will exercise considerable discretion." Ante, at 794. Nevertheless, it concludes that "[b]y its own terms the city's sound-amplification guideline must be interpreted to forbid city officials purposefully to select inadequate sound systems or to vary the sound quality or volume based on the message being delivered by performers." Ante, at 794-795. Although the majority wishes it were so, the language of the Guidelines simply does not support such a limitation on the city's discretion. Alternatively, the majority finds a limitation in the city's practice of deferring to the sponsor with respect to sound mix, and of conferring "with the sponsor if any questions of excessive sound arise, before taking any corrective action." 658 F.Supp. 1346, 1352 (SDNY 1987). A promise to consult, however, does not provide the detailed
Second, even if there were narrowly drawn guidelines limiting the city's discretion, the Guidelines would be fundamentally flawed. For the requirement that there be detailed standards is of value only so far as there is a judicial mechanism to enforce them. Here, that necessary safeguard is absent. The city's sound technician consults with the performers for several minutes before the performance and then decides how to present each song or piece of music. During the performance itself, the technician makes hundreds of decisions affecting the mix and volume of sound. Tr. of Oral Arg. 13. The music is played immediately after each decision. There is, of course, no time for appeal in the middle of a song. As a result, no court ever determines that a particular restraint on speech is necessary. The city's admission that it does not impose sanctions on violations of its general sound ordinance because the necessary litigation is too costly and time consuming only underscores its contempt for the need for judicial review of restrictions on speech. Id., at 5. With neither prompt judicial review nor detailed and neutral standards fettering the city's discretion to restrict protected
Today's decision has significance far beyond the world of rock music. Government no longer need balance the effectiveness of regulation with the burdens on free speech. After today, government need only assert that it is most effective to control speech in advance of its expression. Because such a result eviscerates the First Amendment, I dissent.
"To provide the best sound for all events Department of Parks and Recreation has leased a sound amplification system designed for the specific demands of the Central Park Bandshell. To insure appropriate sound quality balanced with respect for nearby residential neighbors and the mayorally decreed quiet zone of Sheep Meadow, all sponsors may use only the Department of Parks and Recreation sound system. DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION IS TO BE THE SOLE AND ONLY PROVIDER OF SOUND AMPLIFICATION, INCLUDING THOUGH NOT LIMITED TO AMPLIFIERS, SPEAKERS, MONITORS, MICROPHONES, AND PROCESSORS.
"Clarity of sound results from a combination of amplification equipment and a sound technician's familiarity and proficiency with that system. Department of Parks and Recreation will employ a professional sound technician [who] will be fully versed in sound bounce patterns, daily air currents, and sound skipping within the Park. The sound technician must also consider the Bandshell's proximity to Sheep Meadow, activities at Bethesda Terrace, and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection recommendations." App. 375-376.
Our summary affirmance of Watseka v. Illinois Public Action Council, 796 F.2d 1547 (CA7 1986), aff'd, 479 U.S. 1048 (1987), is not to the contrary. Although the Seventh Circuit in that case did adopt the least-restrictive-alternative approach, see 796 F. 2d, at 1553-1554, its judgment was also supported by the alternative grounds that the regulation at issue did not serve to further the stated governmental interests and did not leave open alternative channels of communication. Id., at 1555-1558. As we have noted on more than one occasion: "A summary disposition affirms only the judgment of the court below, and no more may be read into our action than was essential to sustain that judgment." Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 785, n. 5 (1983).