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City barred from carrying news channel on government cable

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City barred from carrying news channel on government cable 07/14/97 NEW YORK--The New York City government cannot carry Rupert Murdoch's…

City barred from carrying news channel on government cable

07/14/97

NEW YORK–The New York City government cannot carry Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel on the government channels of Time Warner’s local cable system, a federal appeals court ruled in early July.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City (2nd Cir.) found that Congress did not intend for governmental channels, which cable system operators are required to provide to local governments, to be used as “commodities to be traded to the highest bidder.”

Time Warner was required to carry a second all-news channel as part of an antitrust settlement after the company merged with the parent of the Cable News Network. Time Warner decided in October to run MSNBC, a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC, rather than the Fox News Channel. Fox asked the city government to intervene after learning it had been denied access to the cable system, which serves 1.1 million subscribers in New York City. The city then tried to put the Fox channel on its government channels, which normally carry governmental or educational programming.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote found in November that the city could not decide to put the Fox News Channel on special government channels consistent with the First Amendment and federal law, and issued an injunction against the city, which was upheld by the federal appeals court.

The court declined to decide whether the city violated the First Amendment by not notifying Time Warner before placing the news channel on a government channel. (Time Warner v. City of New York; Media Counsel: Stuart Gold, New York)