The direct-broadcast satellite industry received some encouraging legal news
Friday, two days after it saw its constitutional challenge to a federal
must-carry law dismissed by a federal district court in Virginia.
According to the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association, the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., agreed to give
expedited treatment to the SBCA's constitutional attack on must-carry rules
adopted by the Federal Communications Commission Nov. 29, 2000.
SBCA spokesman James Ashurst said the court will hear oral arguments in the
case Sept. 24 -- perhaps giving the court enough time to rule prior to Jan. 1,
2002, when the full must-carry provisions kick in.
The trade group is asking the Fourth Circuit to strike down the FCC rules on
the grounds that they are based on a law that violated the First and Fifth
Under the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act, DBS firms that offer any
local TV stations in a market have to offer all of them beginning Jan. 1. Since
the enactment of the SHVIA in November 1999, DBS carriers have been free to
carry any local TV station they wanted.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled against the
SBCA's constitutional claims regarding SHVIA, holding that the 'carry-one,
carry-all' formula did not violate the First or Fifth Amendments.
The SBCA said it is filing an appeal of Lee's decision Monday with the same
Fourth Circuit court that agreed to hear the rules challenge Sept.