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

By Dru Sefton

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.

“At some point, the Supreme Court is bound to reconsider Red Lion,” MTVP attorney Joshua Rosenkranz of the San Francisco law firm Orrick told Current in an email. “It is perhaps the most discredited commercial opinion currently on the court’s books. We are disappointed that the court did not use this case as the vehicle with which to do so.”

The case narrowly applied to public stations operating within the nine western states that make up the 9th Circuit. But public broadcasters feared that a decision favoring MTVP would enable a flood of political ads on public airwaves. NPR and PBS joined to file an amicus brief in the 9th Circuit urging the court to uphold the ban.

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