Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

57 Federal Communications Law Journal 49 (2004)


After having recently adopted a variety of complex decisions concerning the digital television transition, the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") may be poised in the next year to address the issue of mandatory cable carriage of digital broadcast television signals. In this regard, it may reasonably consider the possibility of crafting digital carriage rules for public television stations first without ruling positively or negatively on carriage of commercial stations. This action may legitimately be based on the unique legislative and factual differences between the noncommercial and commercial service and would be constitutionally permissible. This Article sets forth the legal basis for a "public-television-first" approach. Andrew D. Cotlar first discusses the digital television build-out and describes the role of public television stations that build-out. He then explains the FCC's 2001 ruling on digital cable carriage and its impact on public television stations. Lastly, Cotlar argues that a "public-television-first" approach is a reasonable, content-neutral, and therefore constitutionally permissible exercise of the FCC's authority to address the unique needs and circumstances of public television stations.