Manhattan Community Access Corporation vs. Halleck

The US Supreme Court is considering an appeal by the public access channel provider in Manhattan, NY of a lower court decision that said a private operator of a public access channel was a state actor for First Amendment claims by producers who want access to channels.

The case stems from a dispute between access producers and the channel over whether the channel was properly withholding content from the channel.  It’s important to note that disputes between channels and producers are not uncommon across the United States. Almost all of them are resolved by the involved parties.

Public Access channels are operated by private non-profits, quasi-governmental entities, local governments and private for-profits (including cable operators).  With the exception of a few states, almost all local procedures and rules for channels are determined at the local level and meet local community needs and interests.  ACM’s position is that there should not be a Federal rule for these procedures.

That said, ACM filed an amicus brief in the case to refute claims by the cable industry that PEG channels which were authorized by the 1984 Cable Act are somehow unconstitutional because they require cable operators to carry the speech of others.  If allowed to stand, these outlandish claims would silence communities across the United States and would reduce the information that Americans need to ensure that local democracy is strong.

We expect a ruling in the case before the end of court’s term in June.