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Cable TV targeted by McCain

Nov 25, 2002  •  Post A Comment

In a worrisome development for cable TV, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., last week said the industry will be one of the top targets on his legislative agenda when he assumes the chairmanship of the Senate Commerce Committee in January.
“We’re going to look at … whether there’s going to be competition left for cable,” Sen. McCain told Electronic Media.
Sen. McCain had yet to firm up all of his plans for the telecommunications industries. But he said he is concerned about cable competition because federal regulatory agencies recently turned down direct broadcast satellite operator EchoStar Corp.’s effort to merge with DirecTV, a deal that was supposed to result in major competition for cable.
“Where’s competition for cable now that the EchoStar/DirecTV merger has been turned down?” he said.
Sources said the lawmaker is talking about competition because he sees it as a way to check cable rate increases, something critics allege have been getting out of hand.
“He’s concerned about cable rates, as he always has been,” said Pia Pialorsi, press secretary for the Senate Commerce Committee. “How are we going to keep that in check?”
Last spring, Sen. McCain requested a General Accounting Office study to determine the causes of rate increases. After the study is completed, Ms. Pialorsi said, legislators will have a better idea of how to proceed. “Once we know that, it’s easier to prescribe a solution if one is needed,” she said.
In a press release late last week, Sen. McCain also said he plans to promote legislation requiring broadcasters to provide free time to political candidates.
In addition, he listed the following as Senate Commerce Committee priorities: media consolidation; ownership diversification; whether broadcasters are meeting public-interest obligations; broadband deployment; consumer use of digital content; the digital TV transition; spectrum policy; industry financial problems; and Federal Communications Commission reauthorization.