SCOTUS Rules Public Access Station Not Bound by 1st Amendment

HeadlineJun 19, 2019

In a 5-4 decision, Supreme Court justices ruled Monday along partisan lines that New York City’s public access station MNN is not bound by the First Amendment, which would protect producers from editorial control or censorship by the network. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the opinion for the conservative majority.

The case against the nonprofit cable channel Manhattan Neighborhood Network, known as MNN, was brought by independent producer DeeDee Halleck, who said she and her co-producer were suspended after submitting a video accusing the station of neglecting the East Harlem area, where one of its production facilities is located. MNN alleged she was suspended because her video contained footage in which her co-producer made statements intended to incite violence and harassed staff in violation of MNN program content restrictions.

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “New York City opened up a public forum on public-access channels in which it has a property interest. It asked MNN to run that public forum, and MNN accepted the job. That makes MNN subject to the First Amendment, just as if the City had decided to run the public forum itself.”

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