SCOTUS rejects challenge to 'must-carry' broadcast rules

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear arguments in one company's challenge to federal rules that require cable providers to carry local, over-the-air stations.

The high court tersely rejected that petition, filed chiefly by Cablevision in New York and supported by other companies, including Time Warner. Many of those cable providers have long disputed the FCC's "must-carry" rules, instituted in 1992 to encourage and promote local programming.

Cablevision specifically argued in its challenge against carrying the Kingston, New York-based WRNN-TV. The cable company argued the "must-carry" requirement violated its First Amendment rights, as it required Cablevision host the station despite its editorial wishes to carry other content.

Urging the court not to take Cablevision's case was Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who argued in a brief that the cable company had a far greater capacity to carry more channels than it did when the law was introduced more than a decade ago.

“The requirement that some channels be devoted to carriage of local broadcast stations is much less burdensome than it was when the must-carry provisions were previously sustained against constitutional attack,” Kagan wrote.

The news on Monday quickly won the support of the National Association of Broadcasters, which said it was a "great day for the millions of Americans who rely on the diverse line-up of programming supplied by free and local broadcasters."

"By denying the cable-backed petition for review, the Supreme Court validates NAB's longstanding assertion that must-carry rules protect the public's access to niche broadcast programming, including foreign language, religious and independent TV stations," said NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton.