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FCC Upholds WRNN-DT’s Must-Carry Complaint vs. Cablevision

The Federal Communications Commission upheld a must-carry complaint filed by WRNN-DT Kingston, N.Y., against Cablevision Systems, saying that the operator has to carry the TV station on its systems in the Long Island communities of Woodbury and Islip, N.Y.

The commission also rejected Cablevision's associated challenge to its earlier decision to modify WRNN's market to include the Nassau and Suffolk counties served by those two systems.

WRNN agreed to pay for the equipment that would downconvert its digital-TV signal to analog for carriage to Cablevision's analog customers and insure a "good-quality" signal to the headend. The FCC said the must-carry mandate would kick in 60 days after the station made good on that pledge.

Cablevision had argued that the FCC should not have allowed the station to expand its market in the first place, and that requiring must-carry in those new communities was unconstitutional on two fronts -- as a violation of its First Amendment rights and an unconstitutional taking of its property in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The FCC rejected both constitutional claims and accepted WRNN's showing that it aired local programming of interest to the Long Island communities. It also pointed out that the station was carried by competing cable systems in Nassau and Suffolk. The FCC bases market-change requests on four factors: historical carriage, local service, local viewing patterns and coverage by other stations.

Dissenting from the decision were Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. Although they said it was a close call, the pair argued that none of the arguments for adding the Long Island communities was persuasive.

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.