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C-SPAN Urges High Court to Deep-Six Must-Carry Rules

3/01/2010 12:23 PM Eastern

WASHINGTON --
C-SPAN has joined Cablevision Systems in
asking the Supreme Court to overturn the federal must-carry rules requiring
cable operators to retransmit over-the-air TV stations that elect not to
negotiate for carriage.

"Amid today's expanding marketplace of program-delivery
options, must-carry is a relic of the past that should be clicked and dragged
to the recycle bin of regulatory overkill," C-SPAN
vice president and general counsel Bruce Collins said in announcing the move.

The cable public-affairs programmer, whose networks must
compete for channel space with over-the-air stations that elect must-carry, has
long argued that giving broadcasters a guaranteed right to carriage -- while
requiring networks such as C-SPAN to vie for
what space is left -- violates the First Amendment.

C-SPAN said its case is
now even stronger with a more competitive marketplace for TV station fare. In
earlier court challenges, C-SPAN has argued
that A/B switches that allow cable or satellite subscribers to switch to
over-the-air reception were a less-infringing way to preserve access to
broadcast stations.

In the 1997 second Turner
Broadcasting System vs. FCC
decision (the first case was in 1994), the
Supreme Court ruled that the switch was not a feasible alternative, echoing
Congress's view in enacting the 1992 Cable Act. Today, C-SPAN
argues, such a switch is built into TVs and can be "easily" controlled from a
remote.

Cablevision last month asked the Supreme Court to review the
constitutionality of must-carry rules, arguing that their rationale has been
gutted.

 

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