Discovery tag-teams with Cablevision to topple must-carry


Basic cable programmer Discovery Channel believes it’s hard enough for a programming service to find space on local cable system lineups without the mandated presence of broadcast stations taking up guaranteed slots. It’s filed a friend of the court brief in the Supreme Court case Cablevision Systems Corporation v the Federal Communications Commission.

Discovery outlined two main lines of argument. First, it told SCOTUS, “By locking in this preference for broadcasters’ speech, must-carry makes Discovery and other cable programmers second class speakers, undercuts the government’s interest in promoting a diversity of voices, and displaces the actual viewing preferences of cable subscribers to an extent that this Court could not have predicted.”

Discovery’s second main point was, “Broadcasters no longer need the extraordinary preference embodied in must-carry, and its overwhelming burdens on cable systems and programmers have become wholly unjustifiable. If cable providers ever had the ability or incentive to block or distort actual customer preferences in the programming marketplace, they no longer do. As a result, the must-carry statute undercuts the very public interest goals it was intended to promote.”

RBR-TVBR observation: As soon as channels like Discovery and MTV and ESPN and what have you agree to take on a public interest burden and start providing local news and information programming to their local communities, particularly in times of emergency, then they can make a credible case for doing away with must-carry. But they can’t, so must-carry must remain.