Watertown Town Council Proposes Censoring Cable Access Channel

October 29, 2009

At issue is whether the town has any authority to set policy guidelines for the local cable access channel.  The president of Watertown’s town council suggested that the town should create guidelines for the cable channel after a televised candidates forum neglected to invite one of the candidates.

Robert A. Bertsche, a Prince Lobel partner and media lawyer, stated that the government may not impose regulations that would interfere with the content of the programming, other than a ban on obscenity, but the town could impose structural or procedural rules as long as those rules do not affect the content of the programming.

“The town might be able set rules about what hours the cable access station is open, but nothing that affects content,” Bertsche said

The executive producer of the station added that “cable access channels are meant to be free speech forums, and people who produce shows are solely responsible for the content, so long as they don’t libel or slander, use copyrighted material or advertise. Any member of the public who wants to produce a show has access to the station.”

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