Minority Television Project v. FCC

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: 12-02-2013
  • Case #: 09-17311
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Chief Judge Kozinski; Circuit Judges Noonan, Silverman, Wardlaw, Fletcher, Gould, Berzon, Rawlinson, Callahan, and Hurwitz
  • Full Text Opinion

First Amendment challenges of 47 U.S.C. § 399b are determined by applying intermediate scrutiny. The statute is narrowly tailored to achieve the substantial government interest of maintaining quality educational programming on public broadcasting networks.

Minority Television Project was fined $10,000 for violating 47 U.S.C. § 399b and challenged the statute on First Amendment grounds. The district court granted summary judgment for the FCC. Applying an intermediate scrutiny analysis, as required following the Supreme Court decision in FCC v. League of Women Voters, the Ninth Circuit, en banc, affirmed summary judgment for the FCC. Minority Television argued intermediate scrutiny was improper because of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizen's United, however, the court disagreed because Citizen's United did not involve broadcasting. Section 399b bans advertising by for-profit entities, issues of public importance or interest, or political candidates. Alternatively, Minority Television argued that the statute was both overinclusive, because it disallowed political and issue advertising, and underinclusive, because it allowed non-profit entity advertising. The Ninth Circuit found that the statute, adopted by Congress shortly after similar policy was adopted by the FCC following a three-year notice and comment administrative process, was narrowly tailored to ensure the substantial government interest of preserving the essence of public broadcast programming. The government interest is to maintain quality educational programming on public broadcast networks and § 399b is narrowly tailored to achieve that goal. AFFIRMED.

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