FCC at work on cable cap

Sep 17, 2001  •  Post A Comment

In a move that might eventually clear the way for additional waves of mergers in the cable TV industry, the Federal Communications Commission last week launched proceedings that could raise the cap on cable ownership.
To check the power of cable companies, FCC rules previously barred ownership of systems reaching more than 30 percent of the nation’s subscribers to multichannel TV.
But a federal appeals court threw out the cap earlier this year, contending that the agency had not adequately justified it.
Now the FCC is seeking a rationale for a new limit in the form of a new cap based on subscriber reach, overall competition levels in the video marketplace or some other measure.
The FCC also is seeking comment on whether to ax a requirement that barred systems from devoting more than 40 percent of their channel capacity to programming they own, another regulation axed by the court.
The FCC declined to even tentatively suggest a new level for the ownership cap.
But the agency said that with the advent of direct broadcast satellite, which now has more than 15 million subscribers, cable’s share of the nation’s subscribers has dropped from 96 percent in 1992 to 80 percent.