Knefel Case Study: Turner Broadcasting v. FCC The “must carry

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Case Study: Turner Broadcasting v. FCC
The “must carry” provision for the 1992 Cable Television Consumer Act was
intended to protect the market for local broadcasters who might otherwise be edged out
from large cable stations. The act was designed to protect public interest and the threat of
lost viewers and lower viewer and advertising ratings. Cable operators had the monopoly
therefor the push for these companies to dissolve the act would limit local stations and
cause a downward spiral. The court found that it was important to preserve local
broadcasting for people who cannot afford cable television. The desire for Congress was
to protect the local marketplace viability of over-the-air TV broadcasting, because it is
free to all viewers. Not only was it essential for local channels, but as well as promoting
a multiplicity of programming voices and to uphold the significance for fair competition.
Turner Broadcasting System argued that their First Amendment right was
violated, because the government was forcing action that stifles speech on account of its
message, or that requires the utterance of a particular message favored by the
government. They believed that, within their right to freedom of speech, they were not
being compelled to speak because of the limited stations that they held precedents over.
The rules reduce the number of channels over which cable operator’s exercise unfettered
control, and they render it more difficult for cable programmers to compete for carriage
on the limited channels remaining. In actuality, Turner’s under lying argument to this
provision was it was costing them money. By designating a small number of channels to
local broadcasting would cut the cable company’s profit from the lack of revenue from
the bigger networks that would have been placed in the open slots.
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In a 5-4 majority the court upheld the must carry requirement, because the law
was not content based. The rules were not determined by the programming content, but
by broadcast method. They also did not impose a burden of cable operators by reason of
the views of programs carried and did not force the cable companies to alter their
message. The court decided this act was at an intermediate level of the First Amendment,
because it was content neutral. The law does not state which local stations must be aired
rather instead specified the number that should be held for any local station to broadcast
from. This was not activated by any particular message spoken, did not grant access to
counterbalance the message of a cable operator, and did not force to alter their own
messages in response to the broadcasting program. In order to remain fair and balanced
the court sought to have the opportunity for any broadcast network, no matter their
viewpoints, to have the chance to air in their local area. Congress recognized that the
public television stations had an intrinsic value to the American public and were in
economic peril of disappearing due to the cable television industry's monopoly.
In this new age of television with digital technology, the amount of stations that
are now available is astounding. In 1992 when the act was initiated, there weren’t nearly
as many channels available for cable technology; when Turner Broadcasting had to set
aside slots for local programming there was a significant limit imposed on the cable
company. Presently, there is even less of a burden for cable networks to hold local
broadcasting, because with the switch to digital has opened up hundreds of new channels.
Another change since 1992 is the size of networks, cable companies have grown
exponentially and the need to protect local networks have become even more imperative.
If this case were presented today there would be no evidence to absolve the absolute need
to protect the integrity of local broadcasting.
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I think the largest concern in today’s market is the market dominance of media
corporations. These monopolies control most of what Americans read, see, and hear; the
government is now working to protect the integrity of a viable market for small and
independent business. Large media corporations are far more profit-focused and riskaverse. They kill local programming because it's expensive, and they push national
programming because it's cheap, even if it runs counter to local interests and community
values. They often prefer to sit on the sidelines waiting to buy the businesses or imitate
the models of the risk-takers who succeed. This court ruling was necessary to allow an
open market for local broadcasting and it is now even more important to keep the
integrity of this case at present time.