Cable wants FCC to look at ownership differently

Dec 17, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association will ask the Federal Communications Commission next month to launch a review of agency attribution rules that define media ownership, NCTA President and CEO Robert Sachs said last week.
Critics have long charged that the rules are so stringent that they unduly limit industry investment.
During a press briefing at NCTA headquarters in Washington, Mr. Sachs took particular aim at an attribution rule that he said essentially equates a 5 percent investment in a media company with effective control. “It is time for the FCC to take a fresh look,” Mr. Sachs said. “If there are to be rules here, we want rules that make sense.”
The FCC is already considering whether to revise its cable ownership cap. Before the cap was thrown out by a federal appeals court earlier this year, it barred operators from owning systems serving more than 30 percent of the nation’s TV subscribers.
According to the NCTA’s Mr. Sachs, the association will make the pitch for attribution rule reform in its comments on the agency’s cap study. Mr. Sachs also said that pressure to loosen the cap could be eased by giving media companies more leeway under the attribution rules to invest in one another.
Watchdog groups are expected to fight the NCTA’s proposal. “They’re misstating the facts,” said Andrew Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project. “The attribution rules are not about control, they’re about influence, and 5 percent is more than enough to influence a company.”
Mr. Schwartzman also said the cable industry’s arguments against the attribution rules were rejected in the same federal appeals court decision that threw out the FCC’s cable cap. “The court of appeals said no,” Mr. Schwartzman said.