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Copyright (c) 1996 DePaul University
Journal of Art and Entertainment Law

CASE SUMMARY: Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission

910 F. Supp. 724 (D.C. 1995)

Spring, 1996

6 DePaul-LCA J. Art & Ent. L. 299


Ari B. Good



The District Court for the District of Columbia, on remand from the Supreme Court of the United States, 1 decided whether it was reasonable for Congress to infer that the economic viability of the over-the-air broadcast industry was in serious jeopardy absent the "must-carry" provisions of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 2 (the "Cable Act"). The "must-carry" provisions require certain cable television operators to carry commercial and noncommercial over-the-air broadcast television channels without charge. In granting summary judgment for the defendants, the district court concluded that Congress had drawn a reasonable inference, based upon substantial evidence, that the "must-carry" provisions were necessary to prevent the demise of television broadcasting, and furthermore, these provisions did not violate the First Amendment. 3


In 1994, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. and various cable television system operators and programmers ("Plaintiffs") challenged the constitutionality of the "must-carry" provisions of the Cable Act. 4 Plaintiffs argued that strict scrutiny should apply to government regulations that singled out cable operators and programmers and mandated carriage of broadcast television stations based on the content of the broadcasters' speech. 5 Even if the provisions were facially neutral, plaintiffs argued that the "must-carry" provisions were not sufficiently narrowly tailored to effectuate a compelling government interest. 6

The United States Supreme Court rejected plaintiffs' arguments and applied intermediate scrutiny to the "must-carry" provisions. 7 The Court reasoned that ...
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