Communications Law & Ethics
1. Title and Citation
Denver Area Educational Consortium v. FCC , 518 U.S. 727
2. Facts of the Case
Various regulations implementing the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, which regulated indecent and obscene programming on cable television, violated the free speech rights of cable access programmers and cable television viewers under the First Amendment.
It involves three sections of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, as implemented by FCC regulations. Between 1984, when Congress authorized municipalities to require operators to create public access channels, and the Act's passage, federal law prohibited operators from exercising any editorial control over the content of programs broadcast over either type of access channel. Petitioners sought judicial review of ''10(a), (b), and (c), and the en banc Court of Appeals held that all three sections (as implemented) were consistent with the First Amendment." Legal Question presented: Do the Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act's empowerments and restrictions violate the petitioner's First Amendment right to freedom of speech?
Date of Decision: June 28th, 1996. The portion of the regulations, which permitted cable operators to restrict offensive or indecent programming on leased cable channels, was constitutional. However, those portions of the regulations, which allowed the operator, tore strict such programming on public access channels, and which required cable operators to put patently offensive programming on separate channels, which cannot be received unless a viewer requests to have the channel "unblocked," were unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. 5. Reasoning
Such a categorical approach "import[s] law developed in very different contexts into a new and changing environment, and . . . lack[s] the flexibility necessary to allow government to...