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Cable NetworksSupport Suit Against FCC's Leased-Access Rule Change

A quartet of cable nets is taking the FCC to court over its leased access rule changes, joining a request for an emergency stay by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

C-SPAN, TV One, Discovery and A&E told the court that without the stay, the changes would cause "irreparable harm" and "infringe on cable programmers First Amendment rights."

They argue that the FCC's decision to cut the rates cable can charge for government-mandated lease of channels will reduce the cost effectively to zero. The result, they say, will be "displacing and damaging" existing networks.

Because the FCC requires that access channels be carried on tiers reaching at least 50% of subs, the networks argued to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that existing channels will be moved or dropped or never added due to limited capacity.

The FCC released the new rule changes in February, having voted in November to lower the rates cable operators charge and speed up the complaint process. The commission’s majority argued that the change would lead to greater program diversity.

NCTA filed suit against the new rules on March 13, calling the decision arbitrary and capricious and a violation of procedure, but also threw in “unlawful burden on speech" (First Amendment) and an unconstitutional "uncompensated taking of private property" (Fifth Amendment).

The programmers argue that instead of promoting diversity, the new rules will hurt diverse networks like the African American-targeted TV One.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.