Supreme Court declines to review ban on political ads on public TV

The Supreme Court rejected a request Monday from the Minority Television Project (MTVP), licensee of public TV station KMTP in San Francisco, to review a circuit court ruling that upheld a ban on political and public-issue commercials on public television. The justices turned down the case without comment, allowing the December 2013 decision of the 9th Circuit Court to stand, which upheld barring the advertisements. In its petition, MTVP asked the court to overturn its 1969 decision in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, which allowed the government to restrict some broadcast content. That aspect of the case prompted amicus briefs from organizations including the libertarian-oriented Cato Institute.

Justice Dept. asks Ninth Circuit to reconsider pubcasting ad decision

The U.S. Department of Justice is asking the Ninth Circuit Court to reconsider its April decision that a federal law banning public television and radio stations from running political advertising was unconstitutional. In its June 29 filing, the Justice Department argued that the finding “threatens the fundamental nature of public broadcasting.”

In Minority Television Project v. FCC, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit voted 2-1 to overturn the ban in the case brought by the longtime licensee of noncommercial San Francisco station KMTP-TV (Current, April 23). The Justice Department’s appeal to the full court argues that that the panel majority “applied erroneous legal standards and misinterpreted the record” to reach their conclusion. “Federal law has consistently precluded public television licensees from airing paid advertisements,” the Justice Department’s filing contends. “The reasons for this are straightforward and uncontested: public broadcasters provide educational programming (particularly high-quality children’s programming) that is not available on commercial stations and subjecting public stations to advertisers’ market pressures would undermine their ability to provide such programming.”

Court would let public stations sell candidate and issues ads

No, there won’t be any windfall of Obama and Romney Super PAC gazillions for public stations this year. By a 2–1 vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco did indeed rule April 12 that public broadcasters can carry political and public-issue commercials, but the decision is unlikely to take effect any time soon, even in the Ninth Circuit states of the West. Neither side in Minority Television Project v. FCC got everything it wanted in the decision, so one or the other could ask the appeals court for a review by a larger panel of its judges even before the District Court implements the appeals court’s order. For Minority Television Project, licensee of San Francisco pubTV station KMTP, the court decision left standing the main legislation that bars untrammeled advertising on public stations. The low-profile non-PBS station, which fills much of its four DTV multicast channels with German, Chinese, South Korean and other imported or foreign-language programs, went to court after the FCC fined it $10,000 for violating that law 1,900 times between 1999 and 2002.

Pubcasters, Daystar and others are eyeing KCSM bids

Potential bidders for pubcaster KCSM-TV in San Mateo, Calif., put up for auction by its college licensee, include both religious broadcasters and names well known in public media. Daystar Television, a growing religious network that has bought pubTV channels in Dallas and Waco, Texas, and bid for them in Orlando, Fla., and Orange County, Calif., was on the attendance list for the San Mateo Community College District’s pre-bid meeting Jan. 10. Also on the list were former WNET exec Ken Devine of Independent Public Media, a nonprofit that aims to preserve spectrum for public media (Current, Oct. 17);  Ken Ikeda and Marc Hand of Public Media Company, an affiliate of Public Radio Capital; Booker Wade, head of the Minority Television Project and non-PBS pubTV station KMTP in San Francisco; and a rep for Stewart Cheifet Productions, which created Computer Chronicles, a show that ran on public TV for 20 years, ending in 2002.