Broadcasters won a big victory here last week when a federal court upheld a rule that requires cable operators to carry most over-the-air TV stations.

A special three-judge U.S. District Court panel voted 2-1 Dec. 12 to uphold the 1992 Cable Act decision. Broadcasters had fought fiercely for the must-carry provision in the cable reregulation bill, demanding continued carriage of TV stations on cable systems.

Cablers have long argued that must-carry violates their free-speech rights. Broadcasters claim that without the law, cablers will be more inclined to remove “free TV” channels in favor of cable services in which multisystem operators hold an ownership stake. Dan Brenner, general counsel for the National Cable Television Assn., called the Dec. 12 opinion “disappointing.” He said NCTA will quickly appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

National Assn. of Broadcasters general counsel Jeff Baumann said it is “gratifying the court agreed that Congress had an adequate record to support must-carry.”

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