SHORT ITEM: WASHINGTON D.C.
The Federal Trade Commission approved in mid-July a merger between media giants Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting System with one proviso: the new operator must carry a second news channel to compete with its own Cable News Network (CNN).
The ruling marks the first time that a government agency mandated an operator to carry a particular category of programming, according to officials and experts quoted in numerous press accounts. Cable companies are typically only been required to carry broadcast channels and were free to select which cable channels to provide. The new company must guarantee that the competing all-news channel will be available to half its subscribers in three to five years.
The merger will create the largest media conglomerate in the world.
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UPDATE: NEW JERSEY
The law designed to keep communities notified about paroled or released sex offenders who move into their neighborhoods has again been suspended as questions about its constitutionality linger.
The federal Court of Appeals in Philadelphia (3rd Cir.) in mid- July enjoined state prosecutors from sending out detectives to schools, camps and women’s shelters with the names, addresses and pictures of paroled sex offenders living nearby.
Megan’s law, named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka who was raped and murdered by a neighbor in 1994, was upheld only two weeks earlier by a federal district judge who lifted his own suspension of the notification requirement after concluding it did not violate the constitutional ban on imposing new penalties for a crime already committed.
A group of sex offenders, who were convicted and sentenced before the law was passed, have challenged it on the ground that the public ostracism likely to result from community notification is illegal extra punishment.
(Doe v. Poritz)
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SHORT ITEM: NEVADA
George Williams III, president of Nevadans Against Brothels, filed a civil rights suit in a federal District Court in Reno against the district attorneys and sheriffs of three Nevada counties.
Williams asserts that the officials illegally denied him access to prostitutes’ work cards. Prostitution is legal in those counties, but prostitutes must receive cards from county sheriffs’ offices. The state public records law provides access to all “public books and records of… government … officers and offices … the contents of which are not otherwise declared by law to be confidential.”
Asserting that he has been deprived of his rights by the officials, Williams has requested $50,000 in damages and a further $50,000 in punitive damages.
(Williams v. Estes)
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SHORT ITEM: OKLAHOMA
Prison officials had the authority to withhold white supremacist literature from an inmate, a three-judge federal Court of Appeals panel in Oklahoma City (10th Cir.) ruled in late June.
Inmate Gene Taylor filed the lawsuit after officials at the Lexington Correctional Center did not deliver a newsletter from the White Aryan Resistance. Taylor argued that officials violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by refusing to deliver his mail.
The court unanimously upheld the District Court’s ruling that prisons have the authority to regulate prisoners’ mail if such regulations are “reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.” The “violent and hateful” content of the newsletter was reasonably related to a penological interest, the District Court found, “namely the maintenance of a safe and orderly prison.”
(Taylor v. Cody)