A US appeals court ruling today announced that cable companies are not eligible for first amendment to discriminate against channels belonging to minorities.
The charter, the second largest American cable company after Comcast, was sued in January 2016 by Entertainment Entertainment Studios (ESN) Byron Allen, claiming that the Charter violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by refusing to broadcast TV channels run by ESN black . Allen, a comedian and producer, founded ESN in 1993 and is its CEO; The claim requires more than $ 10 billion in reimbursement from the Charter.
The constitution argued that the case should be rejected, claiming that such claims are reflected in the First Amendment, since cable companies allow for “editorial discretion”. But the Charter’s proposal to reject the case was rejected by the US District Court for the Central District of California, and the district court’s rejection was unanimously approved today at the three judges' panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th district.
UPDATE: The Court of Appeal also ruled against Comcast in a similar civil rights case in which ESN is seeking more than $ 20 billion. Comcast briefly explained that "The First Amendment prohibits the plaintiffs to file a lawsuit to change the choice of Comcast in the program line." But today's ruling allows the ESN v. Comcast lawsuit to act as well.
The statute should not distinguish
The Charter states that "the UST requirement is" canceled by the First Amendment, since laws of general applicability cannot be used to force cable companies to accept channels that they do not want to carry, "the appeals commission noted.
But while cable companies do have protection against the first amendment, they cannot freely distinguish by race, the group said. Section 1981 of the US law, which guarantees equal rights in the conclusion and execution of contracts, "does not seek to regulate content of the Charter’s conduct, but only how it reaches its editorial decisions, that is, without discriminatory intentions, ”the judges wrote.
“Section 1981 prohibits the Charter from discriminating against networks on the basis of race,” the judges also wrote. “This prohibition has nothing to do with the point of view or the content of any channel that the Charter chooses or refuses.”
Should the problem related to the Charter, which violates the law on civil rights with its attitude to the ESN, be resolved? Today’s court ruling allows the ESN to continue the proceedings against the Charter in the US District Court.
In addition to refusing to defend the Charter’s first amendment, the appellate court also concluded that “the claimants’ allegations regarding the treatment of the accused to an operator owned by African Americans and his different approach to companies owned by white were sufficient to state a reasonable claim in accordance with [Section] 1981. "Judges" argued that the plaintiff should not require racism to be the cause of the defendant's case, but only that racism was a factor in the decision not to conclude such a contract that the plaintiff was denied the same right as the white citizen. "
The statute swore to continue its defense. “This lawsuit is a desperate tactic that this programmer used before with other distributors,” the Charter statement said in a statement to Ars. "We are disappointed with today's decision and will energetically defend ourselves against these demands."
The ruling of the appeals court set forth some of the claims for the statute:
In addition to retelling failed Studios Entertainment Studios with the Charter, the complainants' amended complaint also included direct evidence of racial bias. In one case, [Charter VP of programming Allan] Singer allegedly appealed to an African-American protest group outside the headquarters of the Charter, told them to "get out of welfare" and accused them of searching for "handouts." The plaintiffs claimed that after informing the charter of these allegations, he announced that Singer was leaving the company. In another alleged case, Entertainment Studios owner Allen tried to talk to the charter’s general director, [Tom] Rutledge, at an industry event; Rutledge declined to participate, referring to Allen as the “Boy” and told Allen that he needed to change his behavior. The plaintiffs suggested that these incidents were an illustration of the institutional racism of the Charter, noting also that the cable operator had historically refused to carry channels owned by African Americans, and before its merger with Time Warner Cable had a board of directors consisting of only white men, the amended complaint further stated that the diversity commitments recently made by the Charter were only illusory efforts to calm the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The eight ESN networks are Cars.TV, Comedy.TV, ES.TV, JusticeCentral TV, MyDestination.TV, Pets.TV, Recipe.TV and The Weather Channel.
In a separate ruling against Comcast, appellate court judges said that the US District Court improperly rejected the ESN complaint against Comcast and returned the case back to the district court. The district court had to allow the ESN lawsuit against Comcast to continue, because "Claimants only had to plausibly argue that discriminatory intentions were a factor in Comcast’s refusal to enter into a contract, and not necessarily, but for the reason for this decision," the appeals court wrote.
The decision against Comcast was largely based on the arguments in the Charter decision. “For the reasons we have discussed in detail, in our opinion, in Statutory communicationswe also conclude that the First Amendment does not prohibit Claimants ’claim in 1981 [against Comcast]- wrote the judges.
“These two decisions against Comcast and Charter are very significant, unprecedented and historic,” Allen said in a statement.
In a statement on the Deadline, Comcast said: "We respectfully disagree with the court decision and are considering the decision and are considering our options."
1st amendment is not a “deregulation instrument”
The decision taken on the first amendment to the Charter was applauded by the Consumer Protection Panel of Public Knowledge, which had previously filed a brief controversial argument of the Charter.
“The Charter has put forward arguments that, if brought to their logical conclusion, mean that the Constitution has banned almost all regulation of cable companies and broadband providers, since their services are a channel for speaking,” said senior Berlmeier, a senior public knowledge adviser.
Bergmayer noted that broadband providers also stated that the First Amendment should repeal network neutrality rules that forbid them to discriminate against websites.
“The first amendment is a tool to promote freedom of expression,” Bergmayer wrote. “Too often, the courts have turned it into an instrument of deregulation, arguing that the supposed interests of freedom of speech in a billion dollars outweigh the citizens' rights to inform, communicate and participate in the public sphere. , broadband providers claim that they have the first amendment right to block websites or interfere with users' rights to use legitimate online services. ”
Disclosure: Advance / Newhouse, which owns 13 percent of the Charter, is part of Advance Publications. Advance Publications is owned by Conde Nast, which owns Ars Technica.