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The First Amendment states that:

“the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.”

One would think that the First Amendment wouldn’t be used during negotiations between a cable provider and a city. Alas, Charter Communications takes the rather idiotic view that the First Amendment allows Charter to do whatever they want, even in the face of a contract.

Basically, the city of Rochester and Charter disagree about whether Charter needs to get city approval before moving the public access channels. Charter believes that they simply need to notify the city and its customers. The city believes that Charter needs to get their approval before moving the channels.

The franchise agreement states the following:
CharterFranchiseAgreement

At a recent city council meeting, Charter came to the meeting and asked the council for approval to change the channels. Their request was denied. Now, Charter is claiming that their request was just a “courtesy.”

On Tuesday, Council members were notified that Charter was simply going ahead with the channel relocation in a letter. Also, Charter waited to notify everyone on the day the first channels were moved. How nice.

But Charter also has another reason for thinking that they can relocate the channels.

Jane Bremer, an attorney for Charter, said the company wasn’t likely to make the move without the city’s consent, though there could be a First Amendment argument for the move, she said.

“We don’t want to go down that road. … Our goal is to have a positive working relationship with the city; our goal is not to be splitting legal hairs with the city,” Bremer said. – Post Bulliten

Wait, what? In what world does Charter live in where a fully agreed upon contract like this could result in the loss of Charter’s First Amendment rights?

This isn’t the first time that Charter used the First Amendment because they were not getting their way. In 2002, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a rather straight-forward opinion telling Charter that no such rights were violated.

Charter was suing the city of Santa Cruz because Charter felt that the city council did not have a good reason for denying their request to change ownership of their local cable franchise to another company. Charter tried to claim that their First Amendment rights were being violated “because its expression was curtailed by the regulation of the cable franchise….(which) amounts to a violation of the First Amendment.”

The Ninth Circuit seemed a bit perplexed at Charter even bringing up the argument. After the Court noted that Charter had not cited any case law for their position, they noted that Charter hadvoluntarily entered into an agreement under which the County had to approve any transfer of the franchise, and thus, to that extent, waived its right to claim that a denial of a transfer violated its First Amendment rights.”

Seems pretty simple.