TW sues to overturn Cable Act

Time Warner Entertainment Co, which encompasses Time Warner Cable, Warner Bros. and Home Box Office, yesterday filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn major provisions of the Cable Act of 1992, becoming the third major company to attack the recent cable legislation through the courts.

Time Warner filed suit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, naming the Federal Communications Commission and the United States of America as defendants.

The suit, similar to one filed in October by Turner Broadcasting, challenges the Cable Act on First Amendment grounds. Cable pioneer Bill Daniels also filed suit to overturn the legislation.

The company’s suit maintains that the Cable Act is unconstitutional because, among other things, the legislation singles out cable operators and affiliated programmers for “restrictions on their ability to communicate that would be patently unconstitutional if applied to traditional print media.”

The suit goes on to charge that those “unprecedented intrusions into the constitutionally protected editorial discretion of cable operators and cable programmers” have been made “for the purpose of placing special burdens on a narrow class of speakers who own both cable television systems and cable programming services.”

While Turner’s suit specifically goes after two provisions–must-carry and retransmission–Time Warner is challenging five. In addition to the Turner charges, Time Warner believes that the rate regulation, terms of dealing by vertically integrated programmers and uniform pricing provisions are also unconstitutional.

Moreover, Time Warner’s suit asks the court to overturn provisions within the 1984 Cable Act, specifically those dealing with public, educational and government access requirements and commercial-leased access channels.

Time Warner maintains that the must-carry, retransmission and access-channel requirements should be overturned because they force cable operators to relinquish editorial and business control of a portion of the channels they use to communicate.

The company also charges that the rate regulation aspects of the new legislation discriminate against cable operators “simply because they communicate news, information and entertainment by means of cable,” and that discrimination violates the First Amendment.

Time Warner is seeking a declaratory judgment against these portions of the two cable laws and for a preliminary and permanent injunction against implementation and enforcement of the Cable Acts of 1984 and 1992.

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