Motivated by its interest in the safety and attractive appearance of its streets and sidewalks, the city of Cincinnati has refused to allow respondents to distribute their commercial publications through freestanding newsracks located on public property. The question presented is whether this refusal is consistent with the First Amendment.
Respondent Discovery Network, Inc., is engaged in the business of providing adult educational, recreational, and social programs to individuals in the Cincinnati area. It advertises those programs in a free magazine that it publishes nine times a year. Although these magazines consist primarily of promotional material pertaining to Discovery's courses, they also include some information about current events of general interest. Approximately one-third of these magazines are distributed through the 38 newsracks that the city authorized Discovery to place on public property in 1989.
Respondent Harmon Publishing Company, Inc., publishes and distributes a free magazine that advertises real estate for sale at various locations throughout the United States. The magazine contains listings and photographs of available
In March 1990, the city's Director of Public Works notified each of the respondents that its permit to use dispensing devices on public property was revoked, and ordered the newsracks removed within 30 days. Each notice explained that respondent's publication was a "commercial handbill" within the meaning of § 714-1—C of the Municipal Code
After an evidentiary hearing the District Court concluded that "the regulatory scheme advanced by the City of Cincinnati completely prohibiting the distribution of commercial handbills on the public right of way violates the First Amendment."
There is no claim in this case that there is anything unlawful or misleading about the contents of respondents' publications. Moreover, respondents do not challenge their characterization as "commercial speech." Nor do respondents question the substantiality of the city's interest in safety and esthetics. It was, therefore, proper for the District Court and the Court of Appeals to judge the validity of the city's prohibition under the standards we set forth in Central Hudson and Fox .
In seeking reversal, the city argues that it is wrong to focus attention on the relatively small number of newsracks affected by its prohibition, because the city's central concern is with the overall number of newsracks on its sidewalks, rather than with the unattractive appearance of a handful of dispensing devices. It contends, first, that a categorical prohibition on the use of newsracks to disseminate commercial messages burdens no more speech than is necessary to further its interest in limiting the number of newsracks; and, second, that the prohibition is a valid "time, place, and manner" regulation because it is content neutral and leaves open ample alternative channels of communication. We consider these arguments in turn.
The city argues that there is a close fit between its ban on newsracks dispensing "commercial handbills" and its interests in safety and esthetics because every decrease in the number of such dispensing devices necessarily effects an increase in safety and an improvement in the attractiveness of the cityscape. In the city's view, the prohibition is thus entirely related to its legitimate interests in safety and esthetics.
We accept the validity of the city's proposition, but consider it an insufficient justification for the discrimination against respondents' use of newsracks that are no more harmful than the permitted newsracks, and have only a minimal impact on the overall number of newsracks on the city's sidewalks. The major premise supporting the city's argument is the proposition that commercial speech has only a
We cannot agree. In our view, the city's argument attaches more importance to the distinction between commercial and noncommercial speech than our cases warrant and seriously underestimates the value of commercial speech.
This very case illustrates the difficulty of drawing bright lines that will clearly cabin commercial speech in a distinct category. For respondents' publications share important characteristics with the publications that the city classifies as "newspapers." Particularly, they are "commercial handbills" within the meaning of § 714-1—C of the city's code because they contain advertising, a feature that apparently also places ordinary newspapers within the same category.
The absence of a categorical definition of the difference between "newspapers" and "commercial handbills" in the city's code is also a characteristic of our opinions considering the constitutionality of regulations of commercial speech. Fifty years ago, we concluded that the distribution of a commercial handbill was unprotected by the First Amendment, even though half of its content consisted of political protest. Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52 (1942). A few years later, over Justice Black's dissent, we held that the "commercial feature" of door-to-door solicitation of magazine subscriptions was a sufficient reason for denying First Amendment protection to that activity. Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622 (1951). Subsequent opinions, however, recognized that important commercial attributes of various forms of communication do not qualify their entitlement to constitutional protection. Thus, in Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748 (1976), we explained:
Id., at 761-762.
We then held that even speech that does no more than propose a commercial transaction is protected by the First Amendment. Id., at 762.
In the Bolger case we held that a federal statute prohibiting the mailing of unsolicited advertisements for contraceptives could not be applied to the appellee's promotional materials. Most of the appellee's mailings consisted primarily of price and quantity information, and thus fell "within the core notion of commercial speech—'speech which does "no more than propose a commercial transaction."` " Bolger, 463 U. S., at 66 (quoting Virginia Pharmacy, 425 U. S., at 762, in turn quoting Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Comm'n on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376, 385 (1973)). Relying in part on the appellee's economic motivation, the Court also answered the "closer question" about the proper
Under the Fox test it is clear that much of the material in ordinary newspapers is commercial speech and, conversely, that the editorial content in respondents' promotional publications is not what we have described as "core" commercial speech. There is no doubt a "commonsense" basis for distinguishing between the two, but under both the city's code and our cases the difference is a matter of degree.
The city has asserted an interest in esthetics, but respondent publishers' newsracks are no greater an eyesore than the newsracks permitted to remain on Cincinnati's sidewalks. Each newsrack, whether containing "newspapers" or "commercial handbills," is equally unattractive. While there was some testimony in the District Court that commercial publications are distinct from noncommercial publications in their capacity to proliferate, the evidence of such was exceedingly weak, the Court of Appeals discounted it, 946 F. 2d, at 466-467, and n. 3, and Cincinnati does not reassert that particular argument in this Court. As we
Cincinnati has not asserted an interest in preventing commercial harms by regulating the information distributed by respondent publishers' newsracks, which is, of course, the typical reason why commercial speech can be subject to greater governmental regulation than noncommercial speech. See, e. g., Bolger, 463 U. S., at 81 (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment) ("[T]he commercial of a message may provide a justification for regulation that is not present when the communication has no commercial aspects character"); Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Assn., 436 U. S., at 455-456 (commercial speech, unlike other varieties of speech, "occurs in an area traditionally subject to government regulation").
A closer examination of one of the cases we have mentioned, Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products, demonstrates the fallacy of the city's argument that a reasonable fit is established by the mere fact that the entire burden imposed on commercial speech by its newsrack policy may in some small way limit the total number of newsracks on Cincinnati's sidewalks. Here, the city contends that safety concerns and visual blight may be addressed by a prohibition that distinguishes
In a similar vein, even if we assume, arguendo, that the city might entirely prohibit the use of newsracks on public
In the absence of some basis for distinguishing between "newspapers" and "commercial handbills" that is relevant to an interest asserted by the city, we are unwilling to recognize Cincinnati's bare assertion that the "low value" of commercial speech is a sufficient justification for its selective and categorical ban on newsracks dispensing "commercial handbills." Our holding, however, is narrow. As should be clear from the above discussion, we do not reach the question whether, given certain facts and under certain circumstances, a community might be able to justify differential treatment of commercial and noncommercial newsracks. We simply hold that on this record Cincinnati has failed to make such a showing. Because the distinction Cincinnati has drawn has absolutely no bearing on the interests it has asserted, we have no difficulty concluding, as did the two courts below, that the city has not established the "fit" between its goals and its chosen means that is required by our opinion in Fox. It remains to consider the city's argument that its prohibition is a permissible time, place, and manner regulation.
The Court has held that government may impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place, or manner of engaging in protected speech provided that they are adequately justified "`without reference to the content of the regulated speech.' " Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 791 (1989), quoting Clark v. Community for Creative NonViolence, 468 U.S. 288, 293 (1984). Thus, a prohibition against the use of sound trucks emitting "loud and raucous" noise in residential neighborhoods is permissible if it applies equally to music, political speech, and advertising. See generally
The argument is unpersuasive because the very basis for the regulation is the difference in content between ordinary newspapers and commercial speech. True, there is no evidence that the city has acted with animus toward the ideas contained within respondents' publications, but just last Term we expressly rejected the argument that "discriminatory . . . treatment is suspect under the First Amendment only when the legislature intends to suppress certain ideas." Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of N. Y. State Crime Victims Bd., 502 U. S., at 117. Regardless of the mens rea of the city, it has enacted a sweeping ban on the use of newsracks that distribute "commercial handbills," but not "newspapers." Under the city's newsrack policy, whether any particular newsrack falls within the ban is determined by the content of the publication resting inside that newsrack. Thus, by any commonsense understanding of the term, the ban in this case is "content based."
Nor are we persuaded that our statements that the test for whether a regulation is content based turns on the "justification" for the regulation, see, e. g., Ward, 491 U. S., at 791; Clark, 468 U. S., at 293, compel a different conclusion. We agree with the city that its desire to limit the total number of newsracks is "justified" by its interests in safety and esthetics. The city has not, however, limited the number of newsracks; it has limited (to zero) the number of newsracks distributing commercial publications. As we have explained, there is no justification for that particular regulation other than the city's naked assertion that commercial speech has "low value." It is the absence of a neutral
By the same reasoning, the city's heavy reliance on Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc., 475 U.S. 41 (1986), is misplaced. In Renton, a city ordinance imposed particular zoning regulations on movie theaters showing adult films. The Court recognized that the ordinance did not fall neatly into the "content-based" or "content-neutral" category in that "the ordinance treats theaters that specialize in adult films differently from other kinds of theaters." Id., at 47. We upheld the regulation, however, largely because it was justified not by an interest in suppressing adult films, but by the city's concern for the "secondary effects" of such theaters on the surrounding neighborhoods. Id., at 47-49. In contrast to the speech at issue in Renton, there are no secondary effects attributable to respondent publishers' newsracks that distinguish them from the newsracks Cincinnati permits to remain on its sidewalks.
In sum, the city's newsrack policy is neither content neutral nor, as demonstrated in Part III, supra, "narrowly tailored." Thus, regardless of whether or not it leaves open ample alternative channels of communication, it cannot be justified as a legitimate time, place, or manner restriction on protected speech.
Cincinnati has enacted a sweeping ban that bars from its sidewalks a whole class of constitutionally protected speech. As did the District Court and the Court of Appeals, we conclude that Cincinnati has failed to justify that policy. The regulation is not a permissible regulation of commercial speech, for on this record it is clear that the interests that Cincinnati has asserted are unrelated to any distinction between "commercial handbills" and "newspapers." Moreover, because the ban is predicated on the content of the publications distributed by the subject newsracks, it is not a valid time, place, or manner restriction on protected speech.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
Justice Blackmun, concurring.
I agree that Cincinnati's ban on commercial newsracks cannot withstand scrutiny under Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Serv. Comm'n of N. Y., 447 U.S. 557 (1980), and Board of Trustees of State University of N. Y. v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469 (1989), and I therefore join the Court's opinion. I write separately because I continue to believe that the analysis set forth in Central Hudson and refined in Fox affords insufficient protection for truthful, noncoercive commercial speech concerning lawful activities. In Central Hudson, I expressed the view that "intermediate scrutiny is appropriate for a restraint on commercial speech designed to protect consumers from misleading or coercive speech, or a regulation related to the time, place, or manner of commercial speech," but not for a regulation that suppresses truthful commercial speech to serve some other government purpose. 447 U. S., at 573 (opinion concurring in judgment). The present case demonstrates that there is no reason to treat truthful commercial speech as a class that is less "valuable" than noncommercial speech. Respondents' publications, which respectively advertise the availability of residential properties and educational opportunities, are unquestionably "valuable" to those who choose to read them, and Cincinnati's ban on commercial newsracks should be subject to the same scrutiny we would apply to a regulation burdening noncommercial speech.
In Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748 (1976), this Court held that commercial speech "which does `no more than propose a commercial transaction' " is protected by the First Amendment, id., at 762, quoting Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh
The Court recognized, however, that government may regulate commercial speech in ways that it may not regulate protected noncommercial speech. See generally Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy, 425 U. S., at 770-772. Government may regulate commercial speech to ensure that it is not false, deceptive, or misleading, id., at 771-772, and to ensure that it is not coercive, Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Assn., 436 U.S. 447, 457 (1978). Government also may prohibit commercial speech proposing unlawful activities. Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Comm'n on Human Relations, 413 U. S., at 388. See Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U. S., at 384.
So the law stood in 1980 when this Court decided Central Hudson and held that all commercial speech was entitled only to an intermediate level of constitutional protection. The majority in Central Hudson reviewed the Court's earlier commercial speech cases and concluded that the Constitution "accords a lesser protection to commercial speech than to other constitutionally guaranteed expression." 447 U. S., at 563. As a descriptive matter, this statement was correct, since our cases had recognized that commercial speech could be regulated on grounds that protected noncommercial speech could not. See n. 1, supra. This "lesser protection" did not rest, however, on the fact that commercial speech "is of less constitutional moment than other forms of speech," as the Central Hudson majority asserted. 447 U. S., at 563, n. 5.
The Central Hudson majority went on to develop a fourpart analysis commensurate with the supposed intermediate status of commercial speech. Under that test, a court reviewing restrictions on commercial speech must first determine whether the speech concerns a lawful activity and is not misleading.
In Central Hudson, I concurred only in the Court's judgment because I felt the majority's four-part analysis was
Thus, it is little wonder that when the city of Cincinnati wanted to remove some newsracks from its streets, it chose to eliminate all the commercial newsracks first although its reasons had nothing to do with either the deceptiveness of particular commercial publications or the particular characteristics of commercial newsracks themselves. First, Cincinnati could rely on this Court's broad statements that commercial speech "is of less constitutional moment than other forms of speech," id., at 563, n. 5, and occupies a "subordinate position in the scale of First Amendment values," Ohralik, 436 U. S., at 456. Second, it knew that under Central Hudson its restrictions on commercial speech would be examined with less enthusiasm and with less exacting scrutiny than any restrictions it might impose on other speech. Indeed, it appears that Cincinnati felt it had no choice under
In this case, Central Hudson `s chickens have come home to roost.
The Court wisely rejects Cincinnati's argument that it may single out commercial speech simply because it is "low value" speech, see ante, at 428, and on the facts of this case it is unnecessary to do more. The Court expressly reserves the question whether regulations not directed at the content of commercial speech or adverse effects stemming from that content should be evaluated under the standards applicable to regulations of fully protected speech. Ante, at 416, n. 11. I believe the Court should answer that question in the affirmative and hold that truthful, noncoercive commercial speech concerning lawful activities is entitled to full First Amendment protection. As I wrote in Central Hudson, "intermediate scrutiny is appropriate for a restraint on commercial speech designed to protect consumers from misleading or coercive speech, or a regulation related to the time, place, or manner of commercial speech." 447 U. S., at 573.
I think it highly unlikely that according truthful, noncoercive commercial speech the full protection of the First Amendment will erode the level of that protection. See post, at 439 (dissenting opinion); Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Assn., 436 U. S., at 456. I have predicted that "the Court will never provide child pornography or cigarette advertising the level of protection customarily granted political speech." See R. A. V. v. St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 415 (1992) (opinion concurring in judgment). Yet I do not believe that protecting truthful advertising will test this Nation's commitment to the First Amendment to any greater extent than protecting offensive political speech. See, e. g., Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989) (flag burning); National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977) (Nazi
I am heartened by the Court's decision today to reject the extreme extension of Central Hudson `s logic, and I hope the Court ultimately will come to abandon Central Hudson `s analysis entirely in favor of one that affords full protection for truthful, noncoercive commercial speech about lawful activities.
Chief Justice Rehnquist, with whom Justice White and Justice Thomas join, dissenting.
Concerned about the safety and esthetics of its streets and sidewalks, the city of Cincinnati decided to do something about the proliferation of newsracks on its street corners. Pursuant to an existing ordinance prohibiting the distribution of "commercial handbills" on public property, the city ordered respondents Discovery Network, Inc., and Harmon Publishing Company, Inc., to remove their newsracks from its sidewalks within 30 days. Respondents publish and distribute free of charge magazines that consist principally of commercial speech. Together their publications account for 62 of the 1,500-2,000 newsracks that clutter Cincinnati's street corners. Because the city chose to address its newsrack problem by banning only those newsracks that disseminate commercial handbills, rather than regulating all newsracks (including those that disseminate traditional newspapers) alike, the Court holds that its actions violate the First Amendment to the Constitution. I believe this result is inconsistent with prior precedent.
In Central Hudson, we set forth the test for analyzing the permissibility of restrictions on commercial speech as follows:
I agree with the Court that the city's prohibition against respondents' newsracks is properly analyzed under Central Hudson, see ante, at 416, but differ as to the result this analysis should produce.
As the Court points out, "respondents do not challenge their characterization as `commercial speech,' " and "[t]here is no claim in this case that there is anything unlawful or misleading about the contents of respondents' publications." Ibid. "Nor do respondents question the substantiality of the city's interest in safety and esthetics." Ibid. This case turns, then, on the application of the last part of the Central Hudson analysis. Although the Court does not say so, there can be no question that Cincinnati's prohibition against respondents' newsracks "directly advances" its safety and esthetic interests because, if enforced, the city's policy will decrease the number of newsracks on its street corners. This leaves the question whether the city's prohibition is "more extensive than necessary" to serve its interests, or, as we elaborated in Fox, whether there is a "reasonable fit" between the city's desired ends and the means it has chosen to accomplish those ends. See 492 U. S., at 480. Because the city's "commercial handbill" ordinance was not enacted specifically to address the problems caused by newsracks, and, if enforced, the city's prohibition against respondents' newsracks would result in the removal of only 62 newsracks from its street corners, the Court finds "ample support in the record for the conclusion that the city did not establish [a] reasonable fit." Ante, at 417 (internal quotation marks omitted). I disagree.
According to the Court, the city's decision to invoke an existing ordinance "to address its recently developed concern about newsracks" indicates that "it has not `carefully calculated' the costs and benefits associated with the burden
Nor does the fact that, if enforced, the city's prohibition would result in the removal of only 62 newsracks from its street corners. The Court attaches significance to the lower courts' findings that any benefit that would be derived from the removal of respondents' newsracks would be "`minute' " or "`paltry.' " Ante, at 418. The relevant inquiry, though, is not the degree to which the locality's interests are furthered in a particular case, but rather the relation that the challenged regulation of commercial speech bears to the "overall problem" the locality is seeking to alleviate. Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 801 (1989). This follows from our test for reviewing the validity of "time, place, or manner" restrictions on noncommercial speech, which we have said is "substantially similar" to the Central Hudson analysis. Board of Trustees of State University of N. Y. v. Fox, supra, at 477 (internal quotation
Our commercial speech cases establish that localities may stop short of fully accomplishing their objectives without running afoul of the First Amendment. In Posadas de Puerto Rico Associates v. Tourism Co. of Puerto Rico, 478 U.S. 328, 342 (1986), where we upheld Puerto Rico's ban on promotional advertising of casino gambling aimed at Puerto Rico residents, we rejected the appellant's argument that the ban was invalid under Central Hudson because other types of gambling (e. g., horse racing) were permitted to be advertised to local residents. More to the point, in Metromedia, Inc. v. San Diego, 453 U.S. 490 (1981) (plurality opinion), where we upheld San Diego's ban of offsite billboard advertising, we rejected the appellants' argument that the ban was invalid under Central Hudson because it did not extend to onsite billboard advertising. See 453 U. S., at 511 ("[W]hether onsite advertising is permitted or not, the prohibition of offsite advertising is directly related to the stated objectives of traffic safety and esthetics. This is not altered by the fact that the ordinance is underinclusive because it permits onsite advertising"). See also City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789, 810-811 (1984) (rejecting the argument that the city's prohibition against the posting of signs on public property could not be justified on esthetic grounds because it did not extend to the posting of signs on private property). Thus, the fact that Cincinnati's regulatory scheme is underinclusive
The Court offers an alternative rationale for invalidating the city's policy: viz., the distinction Cincinnati has drawn (between commercial and noncommercial speech) in deciding which newsracks to regulate "bears no relationship whatsoever to the particular interests that the city has asserted." Ante, at 424 (emphasis in original). That is, because newsracks that disseminate noncommercial speech have the same physical characteristics as newsracks that disseminate commercial speech, and therefore undermine the city's safety and esthetic interests to the same degree, the city's decision to ban only those newsracks that disseminate commercial speech has nothing to do with its interests in regulating newsracks in the first place. The city does not contend otherwise; instead, it asserts that its policy is grounded in the distinction we have drawn between commercial and noncommercial speech. "In the absence of some basis for distinguishing between `newspapers' and `commercial handbills' that is relevant to an interest asserted by the city," however, the Court refuses "to recognize Cincinnati's bare assertion that the `low value' of commercial speech is a sufficient justification for its selective and categorical ban on newsracks dispensing `commercial handbills.' " Ante, at 428.
Thus, despite the fact that we have consistently distinguished between commercial and noncommercial speech for the purpose of determining whether the regulation of speech is permissible, the Court holds that in attempting to alleviate its newsrack problem Cincinnati may not choose to proceed incrementally by burdening only commercial speech first. Based on the different levels of protection we have accorded commercial and noncommercial speech, we have previously said that localities may not favor commercial over noncommercial speech in addressing similar urban problems, see Metromedia, Inc. v. San Diego, supra, at 513 (plurality opinion), but before today we have never even suggested that
The Court's reliance on Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., see ante, at 426-428, is also misplaced. In that case we said that the Government's interest in "shield[ing] recipients of mail from materials that they are likely to find offensive" was invalid regardless of the type of speech—commercial or noncommercial—involved. See 463 U. S., at 71-72. By contrast, there can be no question here that the city's safety and esthetic interests justify its prohibition against respondents' newsracks. This at least is the teaching of Metromedia. There, seven Justices were of the view that San Diego's safety and esthetic interests were sufficient to justify its ban on offsite billboard advertising, even though the city's reason for regulating these billboards had nothing to do with the content of the advertisements they displayed. See 453 U.S. 507-510 (opinion of White, J., joined by Stewart, Marshall, and Powell, JJ.); id., at 552-553 (Stevens, J., dissenting in part); id., at 559-561, 563 (Burger, C. J., dissenting); id., at 569-570 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). Without even attempting to reconcile Metromedia, the Court now suggests that commercial speech is only subject to lesser protection when it is being regulated because of its content (or adverse effects stemming therefrom). See ante, at 416, n. 11, 425-426,
If (as I am certain) Cincinnati may regulate newsracks that disseminate commercial speech based on the interests it has asserted, I am at a loss as to why its scheme is unconstitutional because it does not also regulate newsracks that disseminate noncommercial speech. One would have thought that the city, perhaps even following the teachings of our commercial speech jurisprudence, could have decided to place the burden of its regulatory scheme on less protected speech (i. e., commercial handbills) without running afoul of the First Amendment. Today's decision, though, places the city in the position of having to decide between restricting more speech—fully protected speech—and allowing the proliferation of newsracks on its street corners to continue unabated. It scarcely seems logical that the First Amendment compels such a result. In my view, the city may order the removal of all newsracks from its public rightof-ways if it so chooses. See Lakewood v. Plain Dealer Publishing Co., 486 U.S. 750, 780-781 (1988) (White, J., joined by Stevens and O'Connor, JJ., dissenting). But however it decides to address its newsrack problem, it should be allowed to proceed in the manner and scope it sees fit so long as it does not violate established First Amendment principles, such as the rule against discrimination on the basis of content. "[L]ittle can be gained in the area of constitutional law, and much lost in the process of democratic decisionmaking, by allowing individual judges in city after city to second-guess . . . legislative . . . determinations" on such matters as esthetics. Metromedia, 453 U. S., at 570 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting).
Cincinnati has burdened less speech than necessary to fully accomplish its objective of alleviating the problems caused by the proliferation of newsracks on its street corners. Because I believe the city has established a "reasonable
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Advertising Federation et al. by Richard E. Wiley, Lawrence W. Secrest III, Howard H. Bell, John F. Kamp, David S. Versfelt, Robert J. Levering, and Valerie Schulte; for the Association of National Advertisers, Inc., et al. by Burt Neuborne, Gilbert H. Weil, Randolph Z. Volkell, John F. Kamp, David Versfelt, Jan S. Amundson, Quentin Riegel, and Edward Dunkelberger; for the Institute for Justice by William H. Mellor III and Clint Bolick; for the Learning Resources Network by Bruce R. Stewart; and for the Washington Legal Foundation by Charles Fried, Richard Willard, Daniel J. Popeo, and Richard A. Samp.
Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the City of New York by O. Peter Sherwood, Leonard Koerner, and Paul T. Rephen; and for the American Newspaper Publishers Association et al. by P. Cameron DeVore, Marshall J. Nelson, John F. Sturm, René Milam, Harold W. Fuson, Jr., David M. Olive, Richard J. Tofel, Barbara W. Wall, and Peter Stone.
"`Commercial Handbill' shall mean any printed or written matter, dodger, circular, leaflet, pamphlet, paper, booklet or any other printed or otherwise reproduced original or copies of any matter of literature:
"(a) Which advertises for sale any merchandise, product, commodity or thing; or
"(b) Which directs attention to any business or mercantile or commercial establishment, or other activity, for the purpose of directly promoting the interest thereof by sales; or
"(c) Which directs attention to or advertises any meeting, theatrical performance, exhibition or event of any kind for which an admission fee is charged for the purpose of private gain or profit." Cincinnati Municipal Code § 714-1—C (1992).
"No person shall throw or deposit any commercial or non-commercial handbill in or upon any sidewalk, street or other public place within the city. Nor shall any person hand out or distribute or sell any commercial handbill in any public place. Provided, however, that it shall not be unlawful on any sidewalk, street or other public place within the city for any person to hand out or distribute, without charge to the receiver thereof, any non-commercial handbill to any person willing to accept it, except within or around the city hall building." § 714-23.
"[W]hile we have insisted that the free flow of commercial information is valuable enough to justify imposing on would-be regulators the costs of distinguishing . . . the harmless from the harmful, we have not gone so far as to impose upon them the burden of demonstrating that the distinguishment is 100% complete, or that the manner of restriction is absolutely the least severe that will achieve the desired end. What our decisions require is a `fit' between the legislature's ends and the means chosen to accomplish those ends—a fit that is not necessarily perfect, but reasonable; that represents not necessarily the single best disposition but one whose scope is in proportion to the interest served; that employs not necessarily the least restrictive means but, as we have put it in the other contexts discussed above, a means narrowly tailored to achieve the desired objective. Within those bounds we leave it to governmental decisionmakers to judge what manner of regulation may best be employed. . . . "Here we require the government goal to be substantial, and the cost to be carefully calculated. Moreover, since the State bears the burden of justifying its restrictions, it must affirmatively establish the reasonable fit we require." 492 U. S., at 480 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
"Permission is hereby granted to any person or persons lawfully authorized to engage in the business of selling newspapers to occupy space on the sidewalks of city streets for selling newspapers, either in the morning or afternoon, where permission has been obtained from the owner or tenant of the adjoining building."
"The listener's interest [in commercial speech] is substantial: the consumer's concern for the free flow of commercial speech often may be far keener than his concern for urgent political dialogue. Moreover, significant societal interests are served by such speech. Advertising, though entirely commercial, may often carry information of import to significant issues of the day. See Bigelow v.Virginia, 421 U.S. 809 (1975). And commercial speech serves to inform the public of the availability, nature, and prices of products and services, and thus performs an indispensable role in the allocation of resources in a free enterprise system. See FTC v. Procter & Gamble Co., 386 U.S. 568, 603-604 (1967) (Harlan, J., concurring). In short, such speech serves individual and societal interests in assuring informed and reliable decisionmaking." Id., at 364.
Of course, we were not the first to recognize the value of commercial speech:
"`[Advertisements] are well calculated to enlarge and enlighten the public mind, and are worthy of being enumerated among the many methods of awakening and maintaining the popular attention, with which more modern times, beyond all preceding example, abound.' " D. Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience 328, 415 (1958), quoting I. Thomas, History of Printing in America with a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers (2d ed. 1810).
The Chief Justice is correct that seven Justices in the Metromedia case were of the view that San Diego could completely ban offsite commercial billboards for reasons unrelated to the content of those billboards. Post, at 444. Those seven Justices did not say, however, that San Diego could distinguish between commercial and noncommercial offsite billboards that cause the same esthetic and safety concerns. That question was not presented in Metromedia, for the regulation at issue in that case did not draw a distinction between commercial and noncommercial offsite billboards; with a few exceptions, it essentially banned all offsite billboards.