Kevin Martin Backtracks on FCC Regulation of Cable TV

Nov 27, 2007  •  Post A Comment

In a major victory for the cable industry, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin is pulling back on his proposal to impose new curbs on cable.
Mr. Martin this morning told reporters that a forthcoming FCC video competition report will no longer conclude that the cable industry has passed a key milestone that allows the agency to impose additional limits on cable.
Instead, he told reporters awaiting the delayed start of an FCC meeting, the report may raise questions about whether the benchmark has been exceeded and require cable providers to submit better subscriber numbers to the FCC to determine whether it has.
Today’s result may represent Mr. Martin’s biggest setback at the FCC, but its exact impact won’t be clear until the FCC formally acts later today on the report.
Mr. Martin had hoped the FCC would conclude that cable was available to 70% of households and more than 70% of those households were now taking it. Passing the so-called 70/70 mark gives the FCC added authority over cable, which Mr. Martin and some consumer groups had hoped to use to force cable to add more independent channels and other limits.
The cable industry mounted an intensive campaign against the effort. Martin’s effort also drew strong opposition from Capitol Hill Republicans as well as from minority groups worried that the independent channels would replace minority channels.
Mr. Martin said today that his fellow commissioners objected to the 70/70 conclusion.
The setback comes as the FCC prepares to act next month on media ownership.


  1. The cable industry claims 96MM HH penetration and Nielsen tells us there are 112MM+ HH’s. Hasn’t cable long ago passed 70/70. All my sales AE’s claim they have.

  2. This is specifically looking at wired cable only – not all Cable homes. Satellite households need to be extracted from the numbers you stated. Although keep in mind, penetration does vary by market so in your market there might be 70% wired cable penetration.

  3. Regardless of whether the 70/70 milestone has been achieved, the cable industry is well past the days when it needs government protection and favoritism to gain a foothold in the media marketplace. The free ride for this mature, 500-pound gorilla should now come screeching to a halt and cable should face the same competitive forces and regulatory realities that older media players have faced for decades. In the long run, a more level playing field will make cable a better and stronger player.
    Why is cable so fearful of competition and consumer clout anyway? I thought the post-TCI industry had done a fine job of figuring out out how to answer its phones and make service calls at the appointed time. There is no reason to assume that, given more choices and clout, the consumer would go elsewhere or would shut down the local cable company. Of course, cable arrogance might have to be reeled in here and there, but that, too is pretty healthy.
    With the FCC backing down in the face of cable political muscle, I suppose it’ll be left to the Democrats to bring an end to government cable coddling. Who would have ever thunk it?

  4. Looks wrong to me, but I think nearly everything the FCC has done in the past several years has been bad for the consumer. They are far too interested in politics and special interests to see the benefit they should be providing to the consumer/tax payer. Do they work on behalf of the politicians or the people? FCC taking care of old cable cronies while the satellite TV industry remains competitive with itself.

  5. I, too, am very disappointed with this.
    As Sumner Redstone said in his book, the cable industry is a bunch of spoiled brats who’ve never been said no to.
    There are only two things the cable industry understands–government regulation and public humiliation.
    Time to give them plenty of both.

  6. You all must be kidding, and you’re obviously ignorant about the cable industry. I’ve been with 3 different cable operators over the past 16 years, and you’re not privy to the regulations the industry faces.
    The government regulates rate increases, which are tightly controlled despite changes in programming costs passed on by cable networks. Cable operators pay franchise fees to every municipality in which they do business – a fee for right of way access to attach fiber optic and coaxial cable to existing power poles. In addition, we provide city cable networks and cable and high speed data access to public schools, libraries and government buildings.
    Cable operators have been required to pass certain percentages of homes regardless of whether there are potential customers in those areas. In Texas, the state legislature required cable operators to pass 90% of homes in a given DMA. Now, with the telcos in the video business, this requirement has been lifted so that that the telcos can very easily build cable plant into the most attractive areas (spelled wealthy) and bypass what has been a requirement of cable companies for several decades.
    In addition, the plant built by telcos was subsidized by the government, while the cable industry built its plant with private funds and paid franchise fees all the while. In Texas, we have invested over $1 billion in upgrading he infrastructure of our plant to offer more services, and we didn’t accept so much as one government penny. The cable industry is not afraid of competition. It’s troubling, though, that the telcos would be granted favorable legislation given the advantages they have been furnished by the government.

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