LPTV Sues Charter in State Court Over Non-carriage

Cable op says suit is baseless

LPTV station owner Tara Broadcasting has taken Charter Communications to court in California to try to get millions of dollars in damages over the fact that the cable operator won't carry its Palm Springs TV station and digital subchannels.

Charter countered that the suit is without merit.

In the suit, filed in a California Superior Court, Tara did not ask for carriage, only money, in the form of damages -- some trebled; the broadcaster alleged violations of state antitrust laws and laws against discrimination, unfair business practices and deceptive advertising.

Tara's primary station, KAKZ Palm Springs, is an Azteca America affiliate, and the subchannels Coachella Valley Classic TV and Westerns 4 U are targeted, in part, to older adults; not carrying them is discrimination, which violates antitrust laws because, Tara said, they are being excluded from a business transaction (carriage) because it provides service to protected classes (seniors and Latinos).

Tara Broadcasting said Charter has not offered a non-discriminatory reason for not carrying the channels. It also said the FCC has no jurisdiction because Congress did not give the FCC the ability to regulate the carriage of LPTVS in the top 160 markets. For example, Tara's LPTV station can't assert must carry.

Related: Guide To U.S. Hispanic Channels

Tara is seeking more than $5 million in damages, including trebled damages over the antitrust allegation.

"Tara has no right to carriage, and its lawsuit is entirely baseless," Charter said in a statement. "Charter is committed to providing its customers the diverse and independent programming that is relevant to them and is dedicated to enhancing diversity across our company including in the programming we carry. We are proud to provide one of the most robust Spanish language offerings in the industry with our Spectrum Mi Latino Tier, which offers 130 plus channels, including more than 75 channels that cover news, live sports, and entertainment.”

One LPTV advocacy group saw the suit differently.

"There comes a time when a stand must be taken to defend your rights to conduct business in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner. 

And that time has come to Tara Broadcasting," said LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition director Mike Gravino, who spread the news about the suit in his e-mail newsletter. Gravino says it would be a mistake to dismiss the suit as a fool's errand. "[T]his is California, where what happens there happens across the rest of the country a few months, or a few years later."