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Thanks for asking such an interesting question! I've never looked at this one before.
The case of Capital Cities Cable v. Crisp isn't one a lot of people have heard of. Basically, it goes down like this:
- The state of Oklahoma wants to discourage drinking and bans alcohol advertisements on TV.
- Alcohol advertisements are broadcast over cable on transmissions that come from other states that don't have the ban.
- Oklahoma says that the cable companies must filter out the advertisements before broadcast.
- Cable companies get mad and sue.
At heart is a constitutional question regarding the 1st, 14th, and 22nd amendments. The cable companies argued that, beyond all other issues, the transmission of cable signals between states is a Federal issue regulated by the Federal government's FCC and that this fact trumps any state law restricting the cable company.
The cable company wins.
The court held the following:
- While the 21st Amendment does give states the power to regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol, this power does not trump other constitutional rights and is not absolute,
- The state allowed other forms of alcohol advertising, such as print, and so the cable companies were being unfairly targeted,
- The state allowed beer commercials to be aired over broadcast networks.
In short, the state could not make a good argument that it was regulating alcohol use in Oklahoma because it was doing so on such a narrow front. Even were it a broader effort, the Federal government's interest in promoting "diverse cable services" would trump it.
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