U.S. court gives mixed ruling on FCC program carriage rules
WASHINGTON, Sept 4
WASHINGTON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday threw out part of a federal rule against cable television companies discriminating against independent networks by putting their stations behind high pay barriers, but invited a U.S. regulator to re-issue the regulation.
In 2011, the Federal Communications Commission, the top U.S. telecommunications regulator, made it easier for independent stations to file complaints about cable operators and said that in some cases, it may order the cable operator not to retaliate against the complaining company by, for example, dropping them.
Time Warner Cable Inc. filed a lawsuit, arguing that the FCC violated its First Amendment rights to decide how it carries independent networks. It also argued that the FCC acted improperly by issuing the "standstill", or anti-retaliation portion of the rule, outside the Administrative Procedure Act, or APA, which is required for substantive regulations.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York rejected the cable companies' free speech challenge to the regulation. But it agreed that the anti-retaliation portion should have been put out under the APA, and rejected it, while acknowledging that the FCC will likely re-issue it.
Independent stations - the Tennis Channel is one of the most vocal - have complained about being put in a premium cable tier to avoid having their content compete with the cable provider's own station.
Time Warner and the FCC did not have immediate comment.
The case is Time Warner Cable Inc and National Cable and Telecommunications Commission v. Federal Communications Commission. It is No. 11-4138(L) and 11-5152(Con)