Facts of the Case:
The 1992 Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act required cable television systems to set aside some of their channels for local broadcast television. In 1994, the Supreme Court held that these must-carry provisions pass constitutional muster. (See Turner Broadcasting v. FCC, decided June 27, 1994). The Court then remanded the case to determine whether Congress had adequate factual support for its conclusion that the must-carry provision is necessary. A special three-judge district court held that there was sufficient evidence that the must-carry provision furthered important governmental objectives and that the provision was narrowly tailored to promote those interests. The broadcasters appealed directly to the Supreme Court.
Is the 1992 "must carry" law an unconstitutional intrusion on cable operators' editorial autonomy, a form of Government-compelled speech that violates the First Amendment?
No. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that Congress "has an independent interest in preserving a multiplicity of broadcasters." The outcome supported Congress's right to judge what approach would best insure a competitive communications marketplace.
Decision: 5 votes for FCC, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 47 U.S.C. 534
Turner Broadcasting v. Federal Communications Commission, 512 U.S. 622 (1994), is the second of two United States Supreme Court cases dealing with the must carry rules imposed on cable television companies. Turner Broadcasting v. Federal Communications Commission (I) was the first. Turner I established that cable television companies were indeed 1.) First Amendment speakers but didn't decide whether the federal regulation of their speech trenched upon their speech rights. Under the Miami Herald v. Tornillo case, it was unconstitutional to force a newspaper to run a story the editors would not have included absent a government statute because it was compelled speech which could not pass the strict scrutiny of a compelling state interest being achieved with the least restrictive means necessary to achieve the state interest. However, under the rule of Red Lion the High Court held that a federal agency could regulate broadcast stations (TV and Radio) with far greater discretion. In order for federal agency regulation of broadcast media to pass constitutional muster, it need only serve an important state interest and need not narrowly tailor its regulation to the least restrictive means. See levels of First Amendment Protection for different media CONCURRENCE (Stevens)
Congress’ policy judgment is entitled to substantial deference
Statute did not regulate the content of speech and therefore does not require the court to examine it with heightened scrutiny