Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commn.
512 U.S. 622 (1994)

  • The Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 required cable television systems to set aside some of their channels for local programming. This was known as the ‘must carry’ rule.
    • The idea was to keep local broadcast stations in business to retain diversity.
      • Local channels that broadcast over the air couldn’t compete with the quality and reliability of cable systems, so they tended to lose market share when cable tv was available.
    • On the other hand, it forced cable systems to carry stations they didn’t want to carry.
  • Turner sued, claiming that the law was a violation of the 1st Amendment right to free speech.
    • Turner argued that they should be allowed to carry whatever channels they wanted, and to force them not to was an infringement of free speech.
    • Cable tv stations argued that for every broadcast station that was added, one cable station would have to be dropped, and that wasn’t fair to them.
  • The US Supreme Court found that content-neutral laws are required to meet intermediate scrutiny.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the law was content-neutral in that it didn’t discriminate based on message, ideas, subject matter, or content.
      • The law didn’t say that you had to carry any particular kind of station, or broadcast a particular kind of message.
        • For example, if the law required a company to carry a religious channel, then it would not be content-neutral.
    • The Court found that content-neutral laws are subject to intermediate scrutiny.
      • Intermediate scrutiny requires that the law involved important governmental interests that are furthered by substantially related means for it to not be a violation of the 1st Amendment.
    • The Court remanded the case to see if it met intermediate scrutiny.
  • The case came back up to the US Supreme Court (520 U.S. 180 (1997)), and the Court found that the law did indeed meet intermediate scrutiny and was therefore not a violation of the 1st Amendment.
    • “A content-neutral regulation will be sustained under the 1st Amendment if it advances important governmental interests unrelated to the suppression of free speech and does not burden substantially more speech than necessary to further those interests.”