Central Telecommunications, Inc. v. TCI Cablevision, Inc.

Decision Date16 October 1986
Docket NumberNo. 85-1805,85-1805
Citation800 F.2d 711
Parties1986-2 Trade Cases 67,247 CENTRAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS, INC., Appellee, v. TCI CABLEVISION, INC., Community Telecommunications, Inc. and Telecommunications, Inc., Appellants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Stuart W. Gold, New York City, for appellants.

R. Lawrence Ward, Kansas City, Mo., for appellee.

Before HEANEY and FAGG, Circuit Judges, and WOODS, * District Judge.

HEANEY, Circuit Judge.

This antitrust-monopolization case arises out of competition between TCI, Cablevision, Inc. (and two related corporations, collectively TCI) and Central Telecommunications, Inc. (Central), for a defacto 1 exclusive cable television franchise in Jefferson City, Missouri (the City).

I. FACTS.

TCI managed the City's cable television system for the Athena Cablevision Corporation from 1973 to 1978. In 1978, it acquired the assets of Athena in the City and was then awarded a three-year exclusive cable television franchise. Three months before TCI's franchise was scheduled to expire, the City initiated a "Request for Proposals" (RFP), or bidding process, to solicit bids to determine the recipient of the next franchise.

Two companies--Central and Teltran--submitted bids for the franchise. 2 TCI refused to participate, arguing that it had a first amendment right to continue to provide cable television services in the City, and that the City thus had no right to award an exclusive franchise to another company. The City contended that its cable television market was a "natural monopoly" and that it could not create competition for its cable TV market without offering an exclusive franchise.

TCI then began a campaign, accompanied by numerous unethical and illegal acts, to coerce the City to grant it the exclusive franchise. Nonetheless, after a preliminary vote in January of 1982 in favor of Central, the City Council voted in April, 1982, to grant the exclusive franchise to Central. Central was obligated under this franchise to provide substantially expanded services to subscribers at a cost less than they had been paying. The mayor immediately vetoed this ordinance and the City Council was unable to override it. An ordinance was promptly submitted which proposed renewal of TCI's franchise. The Council deadlocked at a five-to-five vote and the mayor then cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of TCI. The TCI proposal provided fewer viewing channels and inferior picture quality at a higher monthly rate than did the Central proposal.

Central then brought this action against TCI, alleging that TCI had unlawfully interfered with the RFP process to deny Central the franchise and to retain an exclusive franchise for itself. After thirty-one days of trial, the court granted Central's motion for a directed verdict on TCI's counterclaims, and submitted the case to the jury on three theories: 1) that TCI had unlawfully conspired with the mayor and other City officials to retain its exclusive franchise in violation of Section One of the Sherman Antitrust Act; 2) that TCI had undertaken illegal anti-competitive actions to retain its monopoly of the Jefferson City cable TV market in violation of Section Two of the Sherman Antitrust Act; and 3) that TCI had tortiously interfered with Central's business expectancy in violation of the laws of the State of Missouri. The jury ruled in favor of Central on all three claims and awarded $10,800,000 in actual damages on its antitrust and state law claims and $25,000,000 in punitive damages on the state law claim. The court trebled the $10,800,000 award, and entered judgment for $32,400,000 on the antitrust claims and, in the alternative, $35,800,000 on the state law claim. TCI appeals, raising seven issues, each of which we deal with in turn.

II. DISCUSSION.
A. First Amendment Challenge to Exclusive Franchising Scheme.

TCI's first contention is that it has a first amendment right to remain in the City's cable television market with or without a franchise from the City, and that, therefore, Central could not have been damaged when it lost the exclusive franchise. We reject this argument. Before reaching the merits of this argument, we note that there is a significant factual problem with it. The district court found:

Defendants enjoyed every opportunity to produce evidence and make arguments to persuade the jury that they were at all times in favor of head-to-head competition in the market place. * * * [However] the jury [was not] swayed by any of these arguments [and] factual findings implicit in [its] verdict confirm that TCI's endorsement of head-to-head competition lacked sincerity. * * * There was substantial evidence that defendants were engaged in a calculated scheme to prevent plaintiff from entering the Jefferson City market and to maintain a de facto exclusive franchise for themselves. * * * The jury's conclusion that defendants * * * were responsible for plaintiff's exclusion from the Jefferson City market * * * completely undermines any attempt to pass the blame on to the city by way of an amorphous "First Amendment defense."

Central Telecommunications, Inc. v. TCI Cablevision, Inc., 610 F.Supp. 891, 903 (W.D.Mo.1985).

Because we find substantial evidence in the over 7,000-page record in support of this conclusion by trial judge and jury, we think that TCI's first amendment defense fails on its facts because it did not seek to simply remain in the market but to continue its monopoly. 3

Assuming arguendo that TCI was willing to compete head-to-head with any competitor, we find TCI's first amendment defense to be without legal merit. The district court held:

[T]he grant of a single cable franchise is permissible only if the physical and economic conditions of the relevant market give rise to a "natural monopoly" situation. The theory is that, where physical and economic factors render a market incapable of accommodating more than one cable television system, the local governing body is in the best position to determine which proposed system offers the best service to the public for the lowest cost. Since only one competitor can survive in the market, it makes sense to allow the local government to choose the best 4 applicant.

Central Telecommunications, 610 F.Supp. at 899-900 (footnotes omitted), citing Tele-Communications of Key West, Inc. v. United States, 757 F.2d 1330, 1338 (D.C.Cir.1985); Omega Satellite Products Co. v. City of Indianapolis, 694 F.2d 119, 127 (7th Cir.1982); and Community Communications, Inc. v. City of Boulder, 660 F.2d 1370, 1378-80 (10th Cir.1981), cert. dismissed, 456 U.S. 1001, 102 S.Ct. 2287, 73 L.Ed.2d 1296 (1982).

The Supreme Court has not directly addressed this issue. In Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241, 94 S.Ct. 2831, 41 L.Ed.2d 730 (1974), it rejected an argument that the natural monopoly characteristics of the newspaper market gave rise to a duty to provide public access to the press. However, it has approved "far more intrusive regulation of broadcasters than of other media [such as newspapers] * * * because of the inescapable physical limitations on the number of voices that can simultaneously be carried over the electromagnetic spectrum." Quincy Cable T.V., Inc. v. F.C.C., 768 F.2d 1434, 1448 (D.C.Cir.1985), citing, e.g., FCC v. League of Women Voters of California, 468 U.S. 364, 104 S.Ct. 3106, 82 L.Ed.2d 278 (1984). Thus, the question is whether cable television should be analyzed under the standards applicable to newspapers or those applicable to broadcasters.

TCI contends that cable television is entitled to "coextensive protection" with the press media. In its recent decision in Los Angeles v. Preferred Communications, Inc., --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 2034, 90 L.Ed.2d 480 (1986), the Court suggested that the cable medium may be distinguishable from the newspaper medium and that more government regulation of the cable medium may be permissible because cable requires use of public ways and installation of cable systems may disrupt public order. There, a cable television company sued the City of Los Angeles and its cable franchising department, alleging that the City violated its first amendment rights by refusing to grant it a cable television franchise or to allow it access to cable facilities on the ground that it had failed to participate in an auction for a de facto exclusive franchise in the area. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit then reversed and remanded for further findings on whether the City's exclusive franchising scheme violated the first amendment where there was economic and physical capacity for more than one franchise. It stressed that the City's only defense was that allowing more than one cable operator would overly burden and disrupt public property and order. The Supreme Court affirmed, "on a narrower ground than the one taken by [the Ninth Circuit]," 106 S.Ct. at 2036, and refused, without development of a more detailed factual record, to set forth the legal standard for assessing first amendment challenges to cable-franchising schemes. The Court simply held that, given that the Los Angeles cable market was not a natural monopoly and that the only alleged justification for limiting the number of cable operators in the Los Angeles area entailed the use and disruption of public property and order, a remand was necessary for determination of whether the petitioner's first amendment rights outweighed the disruptions alleged by the City. Justice Blackmun, with whom Justices Marshall and O'Conner joined, concurring, emphasized:

I join the Court's opinion on the understanding that it leaves open the question of the proper standard for judging First Amendment challenges to a municipality's restriction of access to cable facilities. Different communications...

To continue reading

Request your trial
30 cases
  • Storer Cable Com. v. City of Montgomery, Ala., Civ. A. No. 90-T-958-N.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Alabama
    • October 9, 1992
    ...federal, state, or local. See Central Telecommunications, Inc. v. TCI Cablevision, 610 F.Supp. 891, 898 (W.D.Mo.1985), aff'd 800 F.2d 711 (8th Cir.1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 910, 107 S.Ct. 1358, 94 L.Ed.2d 528 Finally, the plaintiffs' argument that the first amendment is implicated becau......
  • Islami v. Covenant Medical Center, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa
    • December 22, 1992
    ...is at least as consistent with legitimate business decisions as with anticompetitive joint action." Central Telecommunications v. TCI Cablevision, 800 F.2d 711, 727 (8th Cir.1986) (quoting Admiral Theatre Corp. v. Douglas Theatre Co., 585 F.2d 877, 884 (8th Cir.1978)); see also Matsushita, ......
  • In re General Motors Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Communications Commission Decisions
    • January 14, 2004
    ... ... United States, as well as Hughes Network Systems, Inc ... ("HNS"), a facilities-based provider of very ... ("WTO") Agreement on Basic Telecommunications ... Services ("WTO Basic Telecom Agreement"), ... [ 89 ] and ... remain central to the Commission's overall foreign ... ownership ... regional. [ 211 ] Cablevision and EchoStar assert that ... the proper geographic ... ...
  • P.R. Tel. Co. v. San Juan Cable Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
    • July 25, 2016
    ...collective rate setting among motor carriers," and remanding for findings as to the second prong); Cent. Telecomms., Inc. v. TCI Cablevision, Inc. , 800 F.2d 711, 725 (8th Cir.1986) (although deeming the argument waived, explaining its skepticism that cable company satisfied the Midcal test......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • ABA Archive Editions Library Monopolization and Dominance Handbook
    • January 1, 2011
    ...Serv., 537 F.2d 282 (7th Cir. 1976), 165 CDC Techs. v. IDEXX Labs., 186 F.3d 74 (2d Cir. 1999), 59 Cent. Telecommc’ns v. TCI Cablevision, 800 F.2d 711 (8th Cir. 1986), 81 Chi. Bridge & Iron Co. v. FTC, 534 F.3d 410 (5th Cir. 2008), 80 Christy Sports, LLC v. Deer Valley Resort Co., 555 F.3d ......
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • ABA Antitrust Library Telecom Antitrust Handbook. Third Edition
    • December 9, 2019
    ...Commc’n, Inc. v. Los Angeles Cellular Telephone Co., 973 P.2d 527 (Cal. 1999), 260 Central Telecomms., Inc. v. TCI Cablevision, Inc., 800 F.2d 711 (8th Cir. 1986), 367, 379 Century Tel. of Mo., LLC v. Mo. Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 2009 WL 82066 (W.D. Mo. 2009), 389 Charter Advanced Servs. (MN), LL......
  • Chapter VI. Immunities
    • United States
    • ABA Archive Editions Library Telecom Antitrust Handbook. Second Edition
    • January 1, 2013
    ...opposed to the outcome of that process—as an anticompetitive weapon”) (emphasis omitted); Cent. Telecomms., Inc. v. TCI Cablevision, Inc., 800 F.2d 711, 723 (8th Cir. 1986) (“The fundamental question presented in each case involving the ‘sham’ exception, whether argued in a nonadjudicative ......
  • Chapter III. Monopoly Power
    • United States
    • ABA Archive Editions Library Monopolization and Dominance Handbook
    • January 1, 2011
    ...scheme did not preclude finding of monopoly power when defendant charged unauthorized rates); Cent. Telecommc’ns v. TCI Cablevision, 800 F.2d 711, 726 (8th Cir. 1986) (presence of regulations did not negate finding of monopoly power when the defendant’s rates were unregulated and defendant ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT