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Washington Notes

Aug 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

A cable TV industry-sponsored study filed at the Federal Communications Commission last week contends that News Corp.’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV would increase the incentive and ability of News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch to raise the prices charged to competitors for programming, increases that would ultimately be passed along to consumers. “While it may not turn out to be generally profitable for News Corp. to permanently withdraw its programming from rival [multichannel video programming distributors] after it acquires control of DirecTV, the revenue that News Corp. would lose from withdrawing programming from rival MVPDs will be at least partially offset by the profits that News Corp. would earn from subscribers that switch to DirecTV,” said the study, filed by Advance/Newhouse Communications, Cable One, Cox Communications and Insight Communications. The study also said that while News Corp. has argued that it would make no financial sense to withhold programming, the company would need only to withhold-or threaten to withhold-programming temporarily in a few markets to gain negotiating leverage. A News Corp. spokesman did not return calls.
FCC Proposes New Low-Power Rules
The Federal Communications Commission last week proposed new rules that would give a second TV channel to as many of the nation’s 2,100 low-power TV stations as possible to help them make the switch to digital broadcasting-perhaps even using TV channels 52-69, which have already been reallocated for wireless radio and public safety services. The FCC made clear that digital LPTV operations will not be allowed to cause interference to full-power TV stations and other primary services. Eddie Owen, president of the Community Broadcasters Association, said the agency proposal could result in half of the LPTV stations getting a second channel. “The clock is ticking for the DTV conversion,” Mr. Owen said. “It’s something that had to be done, and we’re just glad to get the ball rolling.” LPTV stations are similar to full-power TV stations, but have much smaller service areas and can’t operate in locations where they might interfere with full-power operations.
NASA Asks Court to Overturn Ruling
The Network Affiliated Stations Alliance last week asked the Court of Appeals in Washington to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s June 2 decision to raise the cap on national TV ownership from 35 percent to 45 percent of the nation’s TV homes. In a filing with the court, NASA alleged that the decision was “arbitrary, capricious, and otherwise not in accordance with law.” Wade Hargrove, a NASA attorney, said a brief documenting the specific points being challenged would be filed “at the appropriate time.” In a separate filing with the court, the National Association of Broadcasters also appealed aspects of the FCC media ownership rulings dealing with radio ownership and a provision that many broadcasters believe fails to provide sufficient relief from restrictions on duopolies in small markets.